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'Buzzsaw' Christensen stymies J-Hawks

Austin Christensen has made all-state baseball teams at Kennedy High School as a freshman, sophomore and junior, but if he keeps playing like this he might deserve a special award.

Christensen starred as a top-notch pitcher and slugger Monday night as the top-ranked Cougars defeated Jefferson, 10-5, in the opening round of the Bob Vrbicek Metro Tournament at Kennedy.

Christensen struck out the first eight batters he faced and finished with 13 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings, but he also did plenty of damage with his bat. He went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a triple, four RBIs and two walks in the first game of the year.

"We ran into a buzzsaw tonight," Jefferson Coach Mike Kuba said. "He had great command of his stuff, and we didn't expect anything different from him."

The first eight batters in the Jefferson lineup barely managed a loud foul ball in the first three innings as Christensen flashed an 89 mph fastball and pinpoint control.

"I don't know if I've ever had anybody start with eight straight strikeouts," Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer said. "I don't know if I've ever seen that before. That was pretty impressive."

Christian Knox, the No. 9 batter in the J-Hawk lineup, grounded weakly to shortstop to end the third inning and snap the string of eight straight whiffs.

"I felt really good," Christensen said. "I had a lot of excitement and adrenaline going for the first game out. I mean, we've been waiting for this for a very long time. It was good to get out and play."

Christensen was the winning pitcher when Kennedy won the Class 4A title last summer in Des Moines, and the Cougars appeared to be in championship form Monday when they grabbed a 6-0 lead after three innings. It wasn't all clear sailing, however.

Kennedy committed five errors, had three runners picked off and had two others caught stealing, all in the last four innings.

"Sometimes you get a big lead like that and you lose focus, you lose your concentration and we certainly did," Hoyer said. "We've got to get better at that."

Kennedy grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second inning when Christensen socked a three-run double off the fence in center field. The Cougars made it 6-0 in the third when Matt Maiers hit a bases-loaded triple to right-center field.

Christensen tripled in the first inning, doubled in the second inning, walked in the fourth and fifth innings, then finished his night with an RBI double in the seventh.

"Hopefully he can keep it rolling all year long and take advantage of the opportunities he gets, because I'm sure a lot of people will start walking him," Hoyer said.

"Like we said in the team huddle, our hats go off to him," Kuba remarked. "He pitched and hit great."

Christensen said Monday he intends to honor his commitment to the University of Nebraska baseball program. The Cornhuskers fired coach Mike Anderson on Sunday.

"I'm still going to go to Nebraska," he said. "It's a great school, and I have faith in Tom Osborne (Nebraska's director of athletics). I know he's going to get a great coach."

Kennedy will face Cedar Rapids Prairie in the semifinals at Kennedy tonight at 7. Jefferson will play Mount Vernon in a consolation game at 5 p.m. at Kennedy.

Terrell Sykes, 2b, 4 1 0 0, Austin Christensen, p, 3 0 3 4, Griffin Michael, ss, 4 0 0 0, Devon Jacobus, 3b, 1 2 0 0, Cody Bell, 1b, 3 1 2 0, David Yancey, lf, 2 1 2 1, Alex Hayden, dh, 3 1 1 0, Logan Ambrosy, rf, 0 0 0 0, Colin Taylor, p, 1 0 0 0, Austin Benson, cf, 1 2 0 0, Josh Jahlas, ph, 1 1 1 0, Matt Maiers, c, 4 0 2 4, Jud Rhoades, cr, 0 0 0 0, Jimmy
Lizarraga, c, 0 0 0 0. Totals 27 10 11 9.

Tanner Unkel, 2b, 3 1 0 0, Drew Striegel, c, 3 2 1 0, Michael Rooney, cf, 2 1 1 1, Bailey Hollingsworth, p, 2 1 0 0, Chance Tiedtke, p, 1 0 0 0, Alex Larson, 3b, 4 0 1 3, Ky Kramer, ss, 2 0 0 0, Austin Goodell, ph, 1 0 1 0, Drake Vanous, rf, 3 0 1 0, Jordan McCormick, 1b, 3 0 0 0, Christian Knox, lf, 3 0 0 0. Totals 27 5 5 4.

Kennedy   033 200 2 - 10 11 5
Jefferson  000 102 2 - - 5 5 2

Christensen, Taylor (6) and Maiers, Lizarraga (7). Hollingsworth, Tiedtke (4), Jourdan (7) and Striegel. W - Christensen. L - Hollingsworth. 2B - Christensen 2, Jahlas, Larson, Vanous. 3B - Christensen, Maiers. SB - Michael, Maiers, Rooney.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 May 2011 01:22 )  

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