Friday, January 24, 2020
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

No.5 Cougars solve Puk, collect victory

A.J. Puk looked like an all-state pitcher for three innings against Cedar Rapids Kennedy Thursday night.

He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced with a rising fastball and sharp curve, leaving the fifth-ranked Cougars swinging at air.

Sykes, Christensen, Yancey, Bell, Jacobus, Ambrosy and Benson all went down swinging in the first three innings as Puk fanned some good hitters in the Kennedy lineup.

The 6-foot-4 lefthander appeared in complete control for Cedar Rapids Washington. It was nine up, nine down.

"He's very smooth," said Kennedy senior Austin Christensen, who was strikeout victim No.2. "His fastball might not be the fastest, but it really gets on top of you. A lot of our guys were a little late on the fastball tonight. It jumps out of his hand."

Puk had it, then lost it.

Kennedy raked Puk for seven runs in the fourth inning and posted an 11-3 victory over the Warriors in a Mississippi Valley Conference game at Kennedy.


Bombs away; J-Hawks blast Cougars twice

The ball was flying off the bats of Jefferson hitters Thursday night in a Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader at Kennedy. The No. 6 J-Hawks had 17 hits in each game and a combined four home runs to power their way to a pair of wins.

“They fly out of here,” Jefferson Coach Larry Niemeyer said. “It is a short field.”

The J-Hawks (23-4, 16-1) took the opener 17-0 in five innings and followed that up with a 12-1 win in five in the nightcap. The doubleheader was the fourth in as many nights for the J-Hawks, who won seven of the eight games, and have won 10 of their last 11. Kennedy (4-21, 2-16) has lost 14 straight games.

In the opener the J-Hawks exploded for 11 runs in the fifth inning to take complete control of the Cougars. Jefferson junior ace Hannah Petersen (12-3) also tossed a three-hit shutout with nine strikeouts.

“I got confidence (pitching),” Petersen said. “I have a good defense behind me which makes it easy to relax.”

Run support also helps.

The J-Hawks got on the board in the first inning when junior Kenna Fry singled in courtesy runner Ashley Madsen, who was running for Petersen after she had singled.

Jefferson added one run in the second on a RBI single by sophomore Kaitlyn Davidson and four more in the third, which was highlighted by two-run blast from sophomore Amber Grimm.


Linn-Mar sweeps Wahlert in MVC twinbill

The Linn-Mar softball team is beginning to piece together the puzzle, in good fashion.

In a dominating performance, a rejuvenated Linn-Mar swept Dubuque Wahlert in a doubleheader Thursday night at the Linn-Mar field. The Lions set the 10-run rule into effect in each game, winning the opener 14-3 and the nightcap 12-2.

After overcoming several obstacles early in the season, the Lions (8-19, 4-12) have righted the tracks and were seen firing on all cylinders against Wahlert.Linn-Mar snapped a 10-game conference losing streak in the opener.

“We are finally getting people healthy and starting to play the way I thought we were capable of playing early in the year,” said Linn-Mar Coach Jon Harms. “We have so many young kids and we have had a lot of injuries and sickness. It seems like now we are finally getting over the hump and playing more confidently.”

In game one, the Lions were strong at the plate, scoring 14 runs as all but two of their starters collected hits. The game ended in the sixth inning when freshman Ellie Rizor blasted a walk-off grand slam over the left-field fence to put the mercy rule into effect.

Rizor had a stellar night, going 5-for-8 with two home runs, two doubles and six RBIs. “I just stayed confident at the plate,” she said.

The nightcap brought more Lion power as they scored 12 runs on 15 hits. “We have had trouble in the past with our hitting and once one person got a hit, the rest started coming,” said Rizor.

The hits came in bunches as the Lions scored eight runs in the fourth inning, putting them ahead 11-2. Reserve player Allissa Clauson cemented the win for the Lions, hitting a walk-off RBI single in the fifth inning for the 12-2 win.



Balta hopes to bowl them over in Vegas

Drew Balta is only 18 years old, but he's been a bowler for a long time. "Ever since I could walk," he said.

He's also very good at it.

Balta was named the Iowa high school Player of the Year when he was a senior at Cedar Rapids Prairie in 2010, and he's got a bowling scholarship at William Penn University.

Bowling runs in the Balta family.

"My dad (Dan Balta) is one of the better bowlers in the Cedar Rapids area," Balta said. "He hasn't really been pushing me ever since I was little, but he was always there with a helping hand. He got me started real early."

Balta set Iowa high school records as a senior at Prairie for a two-game series (588) and per-game average (240.6). His 588 series was comprised of a 288 game and a perfect 300.

Balta is in Las Vegas with four teammates this week to compete in the 16th Annual Junior World Team Challenge at the Suncoast Hotel & Bowling Center. It's a major event with 54 teams in the Unlimited Division.


More local kids doing well

A few weeks back I talked about how truly blessed we were to have as many local metro kids doing well in their respective sports.

That trend is continuing.

In racing, last weekend was a good one for a pair of locals. First of all, Landon Cassill finished a season-best 12th at the Michigan International Speedway on Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It has not been a secret that Cassill's car owner wants results, and soon, and this result is a great step to staying in the recently renumbered No. 51 car.

Also, recent Xavier graduate Joey Gase got a call late last week to participate in the K & N Racing Series East race at Langley Speedway in Virginia. Gase had a spin and finished a few laps behind in the race, but being asked to pilot a car shows how highly he is thought of in the national ranks.


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