DES MOINES - Talk about representin.’
What a day it was for the beleagured Mississippi Valley Conference at the state baseball tournament. Guess it’s fair to say ”beleaguered,” considering it has been 16 years since the league has won a Class 4A title.
Three MVC teams had quarterfinals Wednesday at Principal Park, and they all won - by 10 runs. Cedar Rapids Kennedy put a capper on this memorable round by squashing West Des Moines Dowling, 12-2, Wednesday night.
“That’s really good to see,” said Kennedy’s Austin Christensen. “People say it’s (all about) the CIML, and it is a really great conference. But I knew that we could compete with them.”
And destroy them. Kennedy (30-10) took out one of the big dogs in the Central Iowa Metro League with a stunning rally from 2-0 down that included five runs in the fifth and five more in the seventh.
This wasn’t just any old pitcher the Cougars knocked around. This was Jonathan Musser, a Philadelphia Phillies 21st-round draft pick who had allowed five earned runs all season.
Make that 10 now. Musser was removed in the seventh after giving up eight hits, five walks and nine runs, five earned.
“We’ve been in plenty of situations where we were down,” said Terrell Sykes, who went 3-for-5 with four RBIs. ”We just never let it (get) to us, we come together as a team. When we start, we start, and we don’t stop.”
They certainly didn’t stop here. Sykes and Christensen had RBI singles in the fifth to tie it, 2-2, then the second error of the inning on Dowling shortstop Jason McMurray put Kennedy on top for good.
“We made some things happen,” said Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer. ”They made a few mistakes that we were able to take advantage of. Things just kind of snowballed from there.”
“I don’t know about a 10-run win, but we knew that we could beat Dowling,” said Christensen, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and threw the first five innings for the pitching win. ”They’re a really good team, they hit the ball well, do everything well. But we knew that we could get a couple of runs off Musser, and our defense is good enough to hold them.”
Dowling (32-9) was the third seed here and Kennedy the sixth, though the Cougars are a pretty good No. 6 considering eight of their 10 losses have been by a run. And they played in a Mississippi Division that also included fellow state semifinalists Iowa City West and Dubuque Hempstead.
Kennedy plays top-ranked and second-seeded Mason City (35-6) in an 8 p.m. Friday semifinal.
“Before the season, we knew that it was going to be a tough league,” Hoyer said. “The pitching you have from several of the teams is just out of sight. I think that’s helped us … We’ve seen some really good pitchers.”
Swatted one of them around Wednesday, too.
“Every practice since we knew we were coming to state and that he was going to pitch, we’ve been working on fastballs that were really fast,” Sykes said. ”A lot of pitching from 40 feet. Yeah, we were all a little nervous, worried about it. But when we got here, we just put our foot down, swung the bats, and did what we did.”
Here’s a short video interview with Sykes: