Prep Softball

Preseason area softball Super 10: Cedar Rapids Kennedy starts No. 1

Kennedy and Jefferson are 1 and 2, then it's 2-time defending 1A champ Kee High

Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Kaylin Kinney delivers a pitch at last year's state softball tournament. Kinney is part of a deep pitching staff for the Cougars, who open the season at No. 1 in the area Super Ten. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Kaylin Kinney delivers a pitch at last year's state softball tournament. Kinney is part of a deep pitching staff for the Cougars, who open the season at No. 1 in the area Super Ten. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

High school softball practice begins in Iowa Monday, so it seems as good a time as any to present a preseason area Super 10.

1.

Cedar Rapids Kennedy

2017: 37-8, 20-6 MVC (T-1st, Valley Division)

2017 postseason: Class 5A state tournament, 3rd place
Returning starters: 7
Overview: Dan Gratz got this program off the mat, and Maddison LeClere has maintained the climb, piloting the Cougars to their first state tournament in 18 years (and their best finish ever). Kennedy exhibits an extremely deep pitching staff featuring Kaylin Kinney (a sophomore and a University of Nebraska commit), freshman Jayme Scheck and senior Ashley Winterowd.
 
2.

Cedar Rapids Jefferson

39-6, 25-1 MVC (1st, Mississippi Division)

2017 postseason: Class 5A state tournament, 6th place
Returning starters: 6
Overview: Jefferson set a state record with its 67 home runs last season, and the J-Hawks return players that clubbed 38 of them, including Lindsey Culver (.551, 19 HR, 71 RBIs). Coach Brian Erbe needs two wins to reach 500 for his career, and it’s a good bet he’ll get them on opening night, May 22 at Cedar Rapids Washington.
 
3.

Lansing Kee

2017: 38-2, 18-0 Upper Iowa (1st)

2017 postseason: Class 1A state champion (second in a row)
Returning starters: 6
Overview: The Hawks enter the season with 54 wins in their last 56 games, and they haven’t lost to a 1A foe since 2015. There’s no reason their small-school dominance can’t extend through one more summer, with four batters back that hit .400-plus last season. One of those is Kendra Cooper, who will shoulder most of the pitching load this season.
 
4.

Independence

2017: 26-14, 11-3 Wamac West (2nd)

2017 postseason: Class 4A regional finalist
Returning starters: 8
Overview: This has the potential to be Indee’s best squad since the glory years, in which the Mustangs reached the state tournament six straight years between 2000 and 2005. Only one starter graduated, and the roster includes junior Mackenzie Hupke, who batted .532 with 21 doubles and posted a 1.63 ERA with 171 strikeouts.
 
5.

Mount Vernon

2017: 29-17, 10-4 Wamac East (T-1st)

2017 postseason: Class 3A state tournament, 4th place
Returning starters: 9
Overview: The Mustangs have reached the state tournament three straight years, and return intact with one big exception (2017 Gazette Female Athlete of the Year Libby Ryan). Junior Sammy Moss was fifth in the state in RBIs last year (with 65). Another junior, Madi Speed (17-7) highlights the pitching rotation.
 
6.

Linn-Mar

2017: 27-15, 20-6 MVC (2nd, Mississippi Division)

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2017 postseason: Class 5A regional finalist
Returning starters: 8
Overview: John Begley’s teams are always competitive, and such will be the case again this summer. UNI recruit Ally Johnson will trigger the offense (she hit .423 with 48 runs last year), and senior Katie Smith (17-10) is the top returning pitcher. As was the case last year, the Lions are the most viable threat to Jefferson in the Mississippi Division.
 
7.

Iowa City Regina

2017: 30-11, 15-2 River Valley (2nd, South Division)

2017 postseason: Class 2A state champion
Returning starters: 8
Overview: Count Regina’s 16-inning win over Eddyville EBF in last year’s 2A state final among the most memorable games in state-tournament history. Jake Koolbeck succeeds Jon Prottsman as the man in charge, and pitcher Sarah Lehman will be missed. Junior Katie Bracken will be leaned on heavily at the plate and in the circle.
 
8.

Cedar Rapids Xavier

2017: 23-18, 17-9 MVC (3rd, Mississippi Division)

2017 postseason: Class 4A regional finalist
Returning starters: 8
Overview: The top six batters return from a team that averaged a healthy 6.4 runs per game, led by senior Charlotte Richards (.418, 35 runs, 35 RBIs). Xavier will be battle-tested by the MVC, and that should reap benefits for the postseason; the Saints are pushing for their first Fort Dodge voyage since 2010.
 
9.

Dyersville Beckman

2017: 30-12, 9-5 Wamac East (3rd)

2017 postseason: Class 2A regional finalist
Returning starters: 8
Overview: The pieces are in place for Beckman to make a serious run at the program’s first state-tournament appearance. Junior Sydney Steffen posted a 25-10 pitching mark with 141 strikeouts. Steffen (.455, 53 RBIs) is the top returning run producer, and classmate Heather Boeckenstedt (.437, 64 runs) sets the table. The Wamac East will be crowded at the top again, and the Blazers will contend.
 
10.

Iowa City High

2017: 20-21, 15-11 MVC (4th, Valley Division)

2017 postseason: Class 5A regional semifinalist
Returning starters: 8
Overview: After a 19-58 mark in Jeff Koenig’s first three seasons, the Little Hawks took a giant step forward last year. They should take another this summer with an extremely young squad. The top five hitters last year consisted of three eighth-graders and two freshmen. If the pitching progresses, the Little Hawks will be dangerous.
 

Area class rankings

Class 5A — 1. Cedar Rapids Kennedy (37-8), 2. Cedar Rapids Jefferson (39-6), 3. Linn-Mar (27-15), 4. Iowa City High (20-21), 5. Cedar Rapids Prairie (28-10).

Class 4A — 1. Independence (26-14), 2. Cedar Rapids Xavier (23-18), 3. Western Dubuque (23-16), 4. Washington (21-18), 5. Center Point-Urbana (31-11).

Class 3A — 1. Mount Vernon (29-17), 2. Dyersville Beckman (30-12), 3. Anamosa (19-15), 4. Benton Community (32-6), 5. West Liberty (22-14).

Class 2A — 1. Iowa City Regina (30-11), 2. Jesup (23-10), 3. North Linn (26-14), 4. Highland (21-8), 5. Maquoketa Valley (21-17).

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Class 1A — 1. Lansing Kee (38-2), 2. Belle Plaine (24-8), 3. Montezuma (19-15), 4. Lisbon (29-12), 5. Sigourney (22-12).

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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