It's been exactly one year since Kennedy lost to Fort Dodge in the opening round of the 2011 state baseball tournament.
Fort Dodge lefthander Will Kenny pitched a no-hitter for 6 2/3 innings and the Dodgers trimmed the Cougars, 2-1, on a brutally hot day at Principal Park in Des Moines.
The date was July 27, 2011 -- exactly one year ago.
Kennedy and Fort Dodge will meet again Friday night at the Class 4A state tournament, this time in the semifinals with a berth in the championship game at stake.
The Cougars didn't need a lot of extra motivation for the semifinals, but they got it when the Dodgers rallied to beat Dowling Catholic, 5-4, in the opening round Thursday morning in the completion of a suspended game from Wednesday night.
Kennedy won the Class 4A state title in 2010 and was looking for back-to-back titles in 2011, but Fort Dodge got in the way.
"We're really excited for this game, we're excited for the opportunity to play them again," senior Cody Bell said before practice Thursday night at the Kennedy diamond. "Hopefully we can get some revenge."
The four highest-ranked clubs in Class 4A will gather at Principal Park Friday for the state semifinals. Top-ranked Ankeny (41-2) faces No. 3 West Des Moines Valley (34-9) at 6 p.m., followed by No. 2 Kennedy (33-6) against No. 4 Fort Dodge (35-7) at approximately 8 p.m.
The winners will meet Saturday night in the finals.
Kennedy buried Linn-Mar, 13-1, in the quarterfinals of the state tournament Wednesday night after blowing a lead in the second game of a doubleheader against the Lions during the regular season. The Cougars got revenge against the Lions, and now they want some revenge against the Dodgers.
"I think it will help us focus," Coach Bret Hoyer remarked. "I think it certainly helped us with Linn-Mar, the way we lost the second game of that doubleheader.
"Our guys were pretty motivated and dialed in and I think the same will be true in this case. I don't think there will be anybody looking ahead to Saturday night with our guys, because they'll be really focused on Fort Dodge and they won't forget what that felt like after that ballgame last year."
Kennedy had the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the seventh inning against Fort Dodge last year after finally getting to Kenny, but Devon Jacobus flied out to right field to end the game.
"It hurt all off-season and it still does," Jacobus said.
Fort Dodge used two of its best pitchers to defeat Dowling Catholic. Will Gormally was the starting pitcher Wednesday night against Dowling and tossed one inning before the game was suspended, then he returned to the mound Thursday morning and pitched two more innings.
Tyler Vaughn relieved Gormally in the fourth inning and pitched four shutout frames for the victory, raising his record to 10-0. The Dodgers still have Luke VanderMaten (6-3) and J.C. Hatcher (5-0) to throw against Kennedy, but Vaughn and Gormally (6-3) probably would have limited roles on the mound if they pitch at all.
Kennedy ace Alex Hayden (11-2) pitched five innings Wednesday night, but Adam Lloyd (9-1) and Nick Appleget (8-0) pitched only one inning apiece Wednesday in a non-stressful tuneup for the rest of the tournament.
Hoyer was not ready to announce Friday night's starting pitcher when practice began Thursday, but it will be Lloyd or Appleget.
"We might not even announce it until tomorrow night," he said. "We might warm up both guys. I'll be shocked if they don't both pitch."
Kennedy's pitching staff will enter Friday night's game in better overall shape than the Dodgers, but Hoyer does not think the Cougars will have a significant advantage.
"No, not really, because it still comes down to how well we execute the things that we can control," he said. "We've got to be able to make some key plays.
"It's all going to come down to how well we handle ourselves if we're going to have an opportunity to win the game."
Fort Dodge hit .372 as a team during the regular season and its pitchers had a composite earned run average of 2.58. Kennedy hit .348 and its pitchers had a 2.52 ERA, so the statistics are fairly even.
Gormally hit .440 during the regular season and went 2-for-2 with two RBIs against Dowling in the quarterfinals. Sam Edwards hit four home runs and drove in 40 runs during the regular season. VanderMaten hit .415.
The Cougars remember those guys from last year and still feel the pain of losing.
"You still remember it," Bell said. "We remembered it at the start of this year and we really used it as motivation this season."
Kenny, the star of last year's game, graduated in 2011.
Ankeny, West Des Moines Valley and Fort Dodge all belong to the CIML. Kennedy, the lone survivor from the Mississippi Valley Conference, hopes to crash the party in the CIML's backyard and win its second state title in three years.
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