Brief rise and fall for Clipper girls
CEDAR RAPIDS– A late-season rally by the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Clippers softball team continued Tuesday, July 15, as they earned the right to compete in the state softball tournament by defeating the Washington Demons 6-1 in a Class 4A regional final at Xavier High School.
The Clippers scored in the bottom of the first inning as Mallory Neubauer, the leadoff batter, stole home after knocking out a double to get on base. Another run was added in the second when Courtney James came home on a fielder’s choice. James had doubled to get on base, and then stole third. Two more runs came in the third as ace pitcher Lexi Kinnaird drove Neubauer home and Grace Murray brought in Lauren Stopko.
The 4-0 lead was challenged by the Demons in the fifth with a two-out RBI double. Center fielder Hannah Mougin’s spectacular catch ended the inning for Washington and put the Clippers back at the plate for another run. The final run for the Clippers came in the sixth as Molly Villhauer’s single allowed James to score.
For the Clippers it was eight hits from Neubauer (2), Kinnaird, Murray, James (3) and Madison Rogers. Kinnaird went the distance in the circle, giving up five hits and one earned run while walking one and striking out nine.
“She’s just been a rock for us lately,” coach Barb Lynn said of Kinnaird. “She’s come strong, all postseason play, she’s really been throwing well, she’s keeping batters off-balance and just doing everything we need her to do on the mound.” Behind Kinnaird, Lynn said the Clippers have been showing strong defense and bringing the bats to life. “She’s (Kinnaird) a strong leader out there.”
Looking at the season overall Lynn said, “we’ve been improving all season long and I’ve been so proud of them how they’ve been staying at it. Our record didn’t start out so well, but we kept improving, we stayed after it, we worked on fundamentals, and… everything’s starting to click at the right time. The timing is perfect for us right now.” She noted the Clippers had only given up two runs in 21 innings (three games) of postseason play. “That says itself that we’ve got strong pitching and good defense. Not many teams can do that this time of year.”
Being the second coach in the wake of longtime coach Jim White’s departure was a challenge for Lynn, and the squad, but she added, “I’m so proud of the kids in the transition. They’ve had three coaches in three seasons… and that’s tough. They have to learn new systems, what their role is, how they fit together, and we’ve changed some things. We’ve changed some positions around, and they’ve just done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
For Lynn and her staff, it’s been a transition as well, coming from a season at Iowa City West. “I love these kids,” Lynn said, “They’re willing to accept, and open and they didn’t care what we were changing. They’re hard-working kids.” The coach added she loves that the district is made up of a number of small towns that mesh together. “They’ve (the players) got great work ethics and they come together, they show up to practice and they know what they’re there for. They’re focused and they get after it.” And, they’re having fun doing it. “This is a lot of fun, and I’m so proud of them,” She said.
The win boosted CCA’s record to 22-17 as they packed their bags for Harlan Rogers Park in Fort Dodge to face rival Solon (37-2) in a Class 4A quarterfinal round game on Monday, July 21.