DES MOINES — You’d have to say this one was over shortly after it began. Or maybe before it began.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy won its first state baseball championship last night by destroying Iowa City West, 11-1, in the Class 4A title game at Principal Park.
This much-anticipated battle of Mississippi Valley Conference rivals never materialized, perhaps in part because of who didn’t play as well as the actions of the guys who did. That’s not in the least meant to slight the Cougars (32-10), who played great baseball at this tournament and fully earned their title.
This game ended in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-out error. West had pulled its starters defensively.
“I’m so happy for everybody. Our team deserves this,” said Kennedy’s Austin Christensen.
That’s truth, but you can’t deny Kennedy’s task turned considerably easier with the suspension of West ace pitcher and cleanup hitter Ryan Rumpf for violating school conduct policy. Rumpf was 11-0 this season, including a win in West’s quarterfinal against defending champion Sioux City North.
The team’s RBI leader, he was 4-for-7 at the state tournament with five runs batted in. He beat Kennedy in the regular season.
“There are millions of high school kids every day making bad decisions,” said West Coach Charlie Stumpff. “He did what he did. He’ll grow and get better from it. He’s a good person and baseball player. That’s where you grow. You get growth out of it. He’ll be fine, and we’ll be fine. It’s just tough to deal with right now.”
With all that being said, Kennedy took advantage of its advantage by tagging replacement starter Luke Crimmins and reliever Connor Schreck for 14 hits. Few were of the cheap variety, either.
Christensen had a run-scoring double off the center-field wall in the first inning. His courtesy runner scored on a bullet single to center by Devon Jacobus.
In the second, Griffin Michael had a line-drive RBI single to left. B.J. Cunningham ended any and all suspense this game had left with a three-run double over the left fielder’s head.
“We played great all tournament,” said Christensen, who went 1-for-1 with three walks and was the winning pitcher. “Rumpf is a great pitcher, and it would have changed the game definitely. But we won a state (title), and nobody can take that away from us.”
“Our kids can only control so much,” said Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer. “We can’t control who our opponent puts out on the field. We have to still pitch the ball, throw the ball, field the ball. You have to be able to hit the ball, no matter who they throw at us.”
West (31-8) could do little against lefty Christensen, who was sharp with six strikeouts the first three innings, including fanning the side in the third. Sean Moore, as good a high-school hitter as you’ll see, spoiled the shutout try with an opposite-field home run to right leading off the fourth.
It was the first run West had scored in back-to-back championship games. The Trojans were shutout last year by Sioux City North, 4-0.
David Yancey had three hits for Kennedy. Jacobus, Terrell Sykes and Cunningham had two each.
Kennedy scored double figures in runs in its last six games of the season and seven of its final eight.
“We had a nice game plan set up for this game, and we produced 11 runs,” Cunningham said. “This means everything. It means everything to this program, to us seniors, to everybody on the team. People don’t see the extra people, the fans and everyone who put all that work in. It just feels amazing when we can give everybody this.”
“This is a pretty special feeling,” said Hoyer. “It really hasn’t sunk in, yet.”
Here are short videos of Kennedy’s postgame celebration and an interview with Christensen: