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Sunday, May 01, 2016
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Metro Sports Report

Nearad hits for cycle as No. 4 Kirkwood rolls

Taylor Nearad put a big exclamation point on her bid to be named the National Player of the Year Friday.

Kirkwood's talented center-fielder hit for the cycle as the fourth-ranked Eagles ripped Ellsworth, 15-0, in five innings in the opening round of the regional softball tournament at Kirkwood.

Nearad collected a single and a two-run triple in the first inning when Kirkwood batted around and scored nine runs. She lined a two-run homer in the third inning and had an RBI double in the fourth.

The freshman from Solon went 4-for-4, drove in five runs and hit for the cycle with a single, double, triple and home run in just four innings.

Nearad is now hitting .619 with 26 home runs and 115 RBIs in 56 games as she bids for the NJCAA Division II Triple Crown. She also has 133 hits, 102 runs, 27 doubles and 11 triples and ranks No. 1 in the nation in numerous offensive categories.

Few people have seen anything like it.

"I have not, to be honest," said Kirkwood assistant coach Jenny Nelson, who was an All-American for the Eagles during her playing days. "It's pretty special to watch.

"And knowing how she is as a kid and a person, it makes me that much more proud of her. She's such a great kid and a great teammate."

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Carter lifts No. 4 Eagles after Yegge tossed

Gabi Carter and the Kirkwood Eagles kept their calm Sunday after Coach Joe Yegge was ejected during the second game of their doubleheader against Iowa Central.

The Eagles rallied from a 2-0 deficit and trimmed the Tritons, 3-2, in eight innings on Carter's two-out single that drove in Taylor Nearad with the winning run with Yegge watching through a window in nearby Johnson Hall.

Kirkwood won the first game, 8-0, and clinched the outright ICCAC Conference title with a 27-1 record.

Yegge was tossed in the second inning of the nightcap after arguing a bang-bang play at first base. Iowa Central took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning on a two-run homer, but Kirkwood tied the game in the bottom of the sixth and grabbed the victory when Carter lashed a base hit inside the third-base line with runners at first and second.

Carter liked coming to the plate in the game-winning situation.

"It's definitely an energy rush, to be honest," said Carter, a Cedar Rapids Prairie grad. "I just knew I had to get the ball down on the ground because I'd been hitting everything in the air."

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Hansen helps No. 4 Eagles clinch ICCAC title

Maddie Hansen is getting a lot of good pitches to hit this season as a freshman at Kirkwood, a refreshing change from last year when opponents regularly pitched around her at Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

Hansen has jumped on the opportunity and is hitting .453 with 13 home runs and 66 RBIs for the fourth-ranked Eagles, who have one of the top offenses in the country.

Kirkwood swept a conference doubleheader Saturday from Northeast, 14-0 and 12-0, to clinch at least a tie for the ICCAC title and give Coach Joe Yegge the 500th victory of his career.

Hansen went 2-for-3 in the opener with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. She did not get any hits in the second game, but contributed to the victory with more stellar defense behind the plate.

Hansen had 34 walks in 44 games at Jefferson last season, the third-most walks in the state. She still managed to hit .492 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs for the J-Hawks, but her numbers would have been even higher if not for the free passes.

This year, opponents are pitching to Hansen and she's producing.

"I really like it compared to my senior year," she said Saturday. "There were a few games that were a little frustrating last year, but it's good to see some good pitches and get the job done."

Ironically, Kirkwood Coach Joe Yegge was one of those high school coaches who regularly gave Hansen an intentional walk in his role as the head coach at Cedar Rapids Prairie.

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Nearad bidding for national Triple Crown

Taylor Nearad led the state in RBIs last season when she helped Solon High School win the Class 3A softball title, but now she's bidding for even bigger honors with the Kirkwood Eagles.

Nearad is enjoying a phenomenal season at Kirkwood and is making a strong bid for the national Triple Crown with a .624 batting average, 21 home runs and 94 RBIs in 47 games.

She currently tops all NJCAA Division II players in all three major categories after enjoying another sensational day at the ballpark Sunday when the fourth-ranked Eagles swept a conference doubleheader from Southwestern, 16-8 and 9-1.

Nearad went 7-for-8 in the twin-bill with two doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBIs from the leadoff spot in the order.

"Honestly in my 20 years of doing this, she might be the best player I've had the opportunity to work with," said Kirkwood Coach Joe Yegge. "Everything she does is effortless.

"And she's the type of kid that she doesn't even care (about her numbers). She probably doesn't even know what she's hitting. She just goes about her business."

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No. 19 Eagles slam No. 9 Iowa Central

The Kirkwood Eagles enjoyed a grand day at the ballpark Saturday.

Matt Paciello began the doubleheader with a grand slam and JT Sole finished the twin-bill with another four-run homer as the 19th-ranked Eagles swept No. 9 Iowa Central, 11-1 and 11-6, in an ICCAC double-dip at the Kirkwood field.

Nick Drahozal tossed a two-hitter in the first game, Brandon Brittain delivered the game-winning hit in the second game and everybody who played made a contribution to the big victories.

The sweep lifted Kirkwood into sole possession of first place in the ICCAC with an 11-3 record at the mid-point of the conference race, one full game ahead of NIACC and Southeastern and two games ahead of Iowa Central.

The Eagles (25-13) had dropped 5 of 6 games heading into Saturday's action, but Paciello steered them in the right direction when he socked his grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the first inning of the opener.

Kirkwood loaded the bases with nobody out, but the next two batters were retired before Paciello lined a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left field for an early 4-0 lead.

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