Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

J-Hawks seek 1st tourney berth since 1998

(EDITOR'S NOTE: First in a series of preseason Metro baseball stories. Next: Kennedy.)

The Cedar Rapids Jefferson baseball program lists all of its major accomplishments in school history on the pressbox at the J-Hawk field, but one of those categories has not been updated since 1998.

That's the category that lists trips to the state tournament. Jefferson's last trip happened 13 years ago, the longest drought for any Metro baseball team.

The J-Hawks nearly made it last year with a talented club, but they lost in the substate finals to Mason City, 3-2, on a bases-loaded walk to end their season.

"We were real close," Jefferson Coach Mike Kuba said. "That was a heartbreaking loss for us, a heartbreaking loss for those seniors that gave us five great years."

That club featured Matt Beer, Ben Rettenmeier, Joby Frey, Luke Montgomery and Kellen Sweeney, although Sweeney saw limited action after being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. Sweeney played in the substate loss to Mason City, but received an intentional walk on all four of his trips to the plate.

Those talented seniors are gone, but Kuba thinks he'll have another competitive team. "We're looking forward to the opportunity we have ahead of us this year," he said.


'Burundi kids' add depth - and perspective - to Wash teams

Like their classmates on the Washington High School track team, they’re teenagers trying to balance the obligations of home, school and athletics. Beyond that, their early lives could hardly be more different from that of their American-born teammates.

The “Burundi kids” – five boys and four girls currently running for Wash – were all born in that African country during a civil war that has been described as genocide. They have few memories of their native land, having spent most of their lives growing up in refugee camps in Tanzania – some of them for more than 10 years.

Their families came to Cedar Rapids at various times under the auspices of Lutheran Family Services, and they quickly began the process of learning a new language and integrating into the Cedar Rapids school system.

“Wash has a directed program for ELL [English Language Learner] students so that they are able to receive the best possible education they could get in this country,” says Will Harte, the boys’ team long-distance running coach and an ELL math teacher.


New look J-Hawks want to return to old haunt

(EDITOR'S NOTE: First in a series of preseason Metro softball stories. Next: Kennedy.)

The Jefferson J-Hawks know exactly where they want to end up at the end of the season.

“We want to get back to the state tournament,” junior pitcher Hannah Petersen said. “Last year was obviously disappointing, but we all think that we can do it. We have really good team chemistry this year.”

Missing the state tournament is unusual for Jefferson. The J-Hawks are perennially one of the top teams in the state in softball, led by Coach Larry Niemeyer, who has racked up more wins than any coach in the country with more than 2,000.

This year's team is determined to get back after a disappointing loss with a tough draw in the regional tournament. The fourth-ranked J-Hawks had to travel to face No. 3 Muscatine in the final and got beat 7-2, to finish the season at 34-7.

“We just want to work hard and prove to everyone that we can do it," said senior pitcher Katie Naber. “(And) prove to ourselves that we can do it.”

Leading the J-Hawks will be a strong returning pitching staff in Naber and Petersen. Naber led the team last season with a 16-2 record and 1.03 ERA, but Petersen was not far behind with a 17-5 mark, 1.28 ERA. Petersen, who has been the ace of the J-Hawks' pitching staff since she was an eighth grader, was second team all-state last season.

“Our pitching will be our strength,” Niemeyer said. “I usually pitch Hannah in the first game because she throws harder and then we use Naber the second game because she has better control and can throw to spots.”


Armstrong nets 4 more goals in Saints wins

The Xavier girls soccer team continued their offensive dominance on a rainy Saturday at Prairie, picking up a 6-2 victory over the Hawks.

The Saints (13-1, 10-1 MVC) six goals against Prairie (4-10, 4-7) brings their total to 36 goals in the last five games, since they had their 35-game winning streak broken by Washington on April 30. Before that game, Xavier had scored 17 goals through their first seven games.

“Offensively we are playing well,” said Xavier Coach Doug Graham. “We are kind of hitting our stride at the end of the season. The two girls up top, Kayla (Armstrong) and Annie (Dale) are connecting really well, and then you’ve got Lauren Konchar coming in. Now the three of them are all looking for each other so that is helping us out a lot.”

Those three accounted for five of the six goals with Armstrong and Konchar both scoring two goals. Senior Kelsey Sargent netted the other goal for the Saints. Armstrong boosted her Metro-leading goal total to 20.


Lions throttle Warriors in boys tennis substate

Linn-Mar rattled off five straight wins in singles and blanked Washington, 5-0, Saturday in a Class 2A substate boys tennis meet at Coe.

Linn-Mar clinched the win with five match wins and that ended the meet. The Lions (14-2) advance to the substate semifinals May 21 against Cedar Falls at Washington. That match is at 9 a.m. The substate finals are scheduled for 2 p.m. against either Marshalltown or Iowa City West. Marshalltown beat Waterloo West, 5-1, Saturday to adavance.

"We came out ready to play today.  Nobody wanted their season to end today and it showed," Linn-Mar Coach Cris Wundram said. "Cedar Falls will be a tough match for us next weekend but we're all excited to move on and we'll start getting ready for Cedar Falls come Monday."

Washington ended its season at 12-3. The Warriors played without Charlie Hammond and Mitch Blades, who were disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct during doubles play at Thursday's district meet. Hammond and Blades were the Warriors' top two singles players and top doubles team during the season.


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