Alex Hayden was an all-state pitcher at Cedar Rapids Kennedy last year when the Cougars won 31 games and reached the Class 4A state tournament.
This year he could be their MVP.
"He'd be in the conversation in a lot of ways," Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer said Friday night.
Hayden tossed a complete game as the top-ranked Cougars defeated Washington, 6-1, in a Mississippi Valley Conference game that left the senior right-hander with a 6-1 record and a sparkling 0.53 earned run average.
Hayden is hitting .393 for Kennedy and stars at second base when he's not pitching. Last year, he was mostly a pitcher and got only nine at-bats all season. This year he's helping the Cougars as a pitcher, hitter and fielder.
"It's fun," he said. "I really like playing second. I like playing defense and being able to hit. So it's good to be out there."
Hayden went 8-1 with a 3.22 ERA last year, so he's compiled an overall mark of 14-2 the past two seasons with another month left in the 2012 campaign. He's allowed only three earned runs in 40 innings this year after being touched for 21 earned runs in 45 2/3 frames a year ago.
"I think he's coming along," said Hoyer. "Tonight he showed some signs of being more consistent. And he's got to continue to get even more consistent with his off-speed stuff, because they were really jumping on his fastball early in the game.
"If he can continue to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate and get his off-speed over, he's pretty tough. Eight-four (mph) isn't 94, but it's still pretty quick."
Washington grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a ringing double by Johnny Dobbs, an infield single by Noah Dostal and an RBI double to right-center by Noah Burdt. Hayden had allowed only two earned runs prior to Friday, so it was a little surprising to see the struggling Warriors get to him early.
They didn't get to him again, however. Hayden retired 10 straight batters at one point and allowed only harmless singles the rest of the way in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to finish with a six-hitter.
He appeared to be throwing harder in the seventh inning than he had all night as he smelled the finish line and a complete game.
"I wanted to finish it out," he said. "This is the first time I went seven (innings) all year, so I wanted to get through that seventh without giving up too many hits and no runs."
Hayden struck out the side in the seventh and finished with eight whiffs, giving him 48 strikeouts in 40 innings this year. Opponents are batting a measley .156 against him with only 22 hits.
Hayden has signed with Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, where he'll be a pitcher and possibly a position player. His ultimate goal is to play NCAA Division I college baseball after junior college.
Kennedy scored twice in the bottom of the first inning to take a 2-1 lead. The Cougars made it 3-1 in the second inning and 4-1 in the third. It stayed that way until Kennedy scored two insurance runs in the sixth inning on RBI hits by Devon Jacobus and Chico Lizarraga.
Logan Ambrosy continued his hot hitting by going 3-for-4 for the Cougars with two runs and an RBI. Cody Bell, Jacobus and Hayden were all 2-for-4 with an RBI.
The victory lifted Kennedy to 20-3 overall and 13-3 in the Mississippi Valley Conference, tied for first place in the Mississippi Division. Hoyer has been Kennedy's head coach for 20 years, and this is the 19th time in 20 years his teams have won at least 20 games.
"We should finish above .500 and it kept us in first place, so that's a good deal," he said. "I'm happy for them, proud of them. We grinded out another win."
Washington fell to 3-24 overall and 0-16 in the MVC with its 16th straight defeat.
Hogg, ss/cf, 3 0 1 0, Dobbs, 3b, 3 1 1 0, N.Dostal, p/ss, 3 0 1 0, Burdt, rf, 2 0 1 1, G.Dostal, 1b, 2 0 1 1, Rings, c, 3 0 1 0, Harrington, cr, 0 0 0 0, Metzger, dh, 3 0 0 0, Hand, lf, 0 0 0 0, Troendle, cf/p, 3 0 1 0, Thulin, 2b, 3 0 0 0. Totals 26 1 6 1.
Jahlas, cf, 4 1 0 0, Ambrosy, 1b, 4 2 3 1, Bell, 3b, 4 0 2 1, Dv Jacobus, 2b, 4 1 2 1, Staton, pr, 0 1 0 0, Lizarraga, c, 3 0 1 1, Smetzer, cr, 0 0 0 0, Lloyd, rf, 3 0 1 0, Hayden, p, 4 0 2 1, Staton, cr, 0 1 0 0, Dk Jacobus, ss, 2 0 0 0, A.Johnson, lf, 2 0 0 0. Totals 30 6 11 5.
Washington 100 000 0 - 1 6 3
Kennedy 211 002 x - 6 11 0
N.Dostal, Troendle (4) and Rings; Hayden and Lizarraga. W - Hayden (6-1). L - N.Dostal. 2B - Dobbs, Burdt, Dv Jacobus. SB - Hogg, Jahlas, Ambrosy.
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