Kennedy catcher Jimmy "Chico" Lizarraga has a special bond with the pitching staff for the top-ranked Cougars.
After all, he's been catching most of them since they were eight years old and playing at a high level for the Junior Cougars.
"I really don't trust anyone else," said Nick Appleget, one of the starting pitchers at Kennedy. "I mean, I can throw with anyone else back there, but I look for Jimmy. He's the best catcher I know."
Appleget tossed five strong innings Tuesday night as Kennedy walked past Davenport Central, 8-2, in a non-conference game at the Kennedy field.
Lizarraga caught a flawless game and picked two runners off base as the surging Cougars raised their record to 15-2.
Kennedy features a starting rotation of Alex Hayden, Adam Lloyd, Appleget and Cody Bell. They're all seniors, and so is their favorite backstop.
The Cougars have allowed only 34 earned runs in 17 games and feature a staff ERA of 2.25, a sparkling number. Pitchers normally get all the credit for numbers like that, but somebody has to catch the ball after they throw it.
"It's pretty easy, because I just sit back there and they hit the mitt," Lizarraga claimed. "Their confidence level goes up when I'm back there and mine goes up, too.
"I think I believe in them and they believe in me. We just go out there and get the job done."
Most of the seniors on Kennedy's ballclub finished second in the 9-and-under C.A.B.A. World Series in Charles City when they were eight years old. They won a USSSA World Series when they were 12 and fared very well in many other major events.
Kennedy's starting pitchers and their starting catcher have been through a lot together and have succeeded at a high level.
"There's got to be a high degree of comfort there," said Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer. "And I know there's a high degree of comfort on the coaching staff when Jimmy is back there catching them."
Devon Jacobus, Logan Ambrosy and Josh Jahlas also played for those Junior Cougars and are three more key ingredients for Kennedy. It's a talented, close-knit group and accustomed to winning ballgames.
Kennedy has featured a string of all-state catchers during Hoyer's 20 years as head coach. He thinks Lizarraga handles the job as well as any of them.
"He's one of the best I've ever coached," said Hoyer. "He's right up there. He'd fit in the conversation with the best I've ever had."
Appleget (4-0) swears by him.
"I feel comfortable with him," said Appleget. "If I'm struggling on the mound, he comes out and he's got good words of wisdom. He laughs about things. It's fun having him behind the plate."
You rarely see a passed ball with Lizarraga behind the plate. And you rarely see opponents trying to steal bases, because Lizarraga has a strong, accurate arm. "He's crazy," said Appleget.
"I want to be a wall and let nothing get behind me," said Lizarraga. "So far I've done a good job of keeping everything in front of me."
Lizarraga said he's enjoyed working with Kennedy assistant coach Jake Waddle on his catching. Waddle was a catcher in college and calls the pitches for the Cougars.
Lizarraga was the starting quarterback for the Kennedy football team last fall and has committed to play football at Iowa Central Community College, but he has not abandoned the idea of also playing baseball in college.
"I still think about it," he said. "We'll see how the season turns out."
Lizarraga is hitting .333 with 11 RBIs this season, so he's also a tough out at the plate.
Kennedy scored five runs on one hit in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday when Davenport Central pitcher Jacob Light walked five batters and his defense committed two errors. That's really all Appleget needed en route to his fourth win of the season.
Appleget got into trouble in the third inning when Davenport Central (5-8) scored a run and loaded the bases with nobody out, but he collected a strikeout and the Cougars executed a snappy 5-4-3 double play to get out of trouble.
Kennedy scored three more times in the sixth inning for an 8-1 lead, and once again the Cougars had only one hit in the inning. Davenport pitchers walked three batters and hit another to make it easy for the home team.
Bell went 3-for-4 for Kennedy. Lizarraga, Hayden and Devon Jacobus drove in two runs apiece.
Kennedy collected only five hits in the game (all singles), but got 12 free bases on 10 walks and two hit batters.
DAVENPORT CENTRAL (2)
Cartee, 2b, 3 0 1 0, Betsworth, lf, 3 0 1 1, Waterman, rf, 3 0 1 0, Mampre, c, 3 0 1 0, Weiman, cr, 0 0 0 0, Corbin, cf, 3 0 0 0, Light, p, 1 0 0 0, Pethoud, cr, 0 0 0 0, Gowey, p, 0 1 0 0, Hoeksema, ss, 3 0 1 1, Behrendt, 1b, 2 1 1 0, Burke, 1b, 1 0 0 0, Styvaert, 3b, 2 0 0 0. Totals 24 2 6 2.
Jahlas, cf, 3 0 0 1, Ambrosy, rf,/1b, 2 2 0 0, Bell, 1b/p/3b, 4 1 3 0, Smetzer, pr, 0 1 0 0, Dv Jacobus, 3b/p, 1 1 0 0, Staton, pr, 0 0 0 0, Lizarraga, c, 3 0 1 2, Smetzer, cr, 0 2 0 0, Hayden, 2b, 4 0 1 2, Lloyd, dh/rf, 1 1 0 0, Appleget, p, 0 0 0 0, Dr Jacobus, ss, 2 0 0 2, A.Johnson, lf, 4 0 0 0. Totals 24 8 5 7.
Davenport Central 001 000 1 - 2 6 2
Kennedy 500 003 x - 8 5 0
Light, Gowey (6) and Mampre. Appleget, Bell (6), Dv Jacobus (7) and Lizarraga. W - Appleget (4-0). L - Light. 2B - Mampre. SB - Lloyd.
|< Prev||Next >|