Fast start carries KCKCC women into national title game

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Kansas City Kansas Community College is back in the NJCAA DII women’s national championship game for the second time in four years, thanks to an 83-75 win over Cape Fear Community College Friday.

The Blue Devils (31-4) will meet the winner of the Union County-Lackawanna semifinal Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Harrison, Arkansas.

Facing a Cape Fear team that had scored 63 first half points on the way to a tournament record 116-105 win over NIACC in quarterfinal play Wednesday, the Blue Devils limited the Sea Devils to one field goal in the first 7½ minutes on the way to a 25-5 lead and were in control the rest of the way despite some uncharacteristic faulty free throw shooting in the final minutes.

Leading 72-54 after three quarters, the Blue Devils missed 10 of 12 free throws the final minutes and did not score a field goal in the last 3:22 although never in danger of giving up the lead.

“I think you saw the best of KCK basketball and maybe some of the worst of KCK basketball,” KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry said. “Obviously these girls have not been in this kind of situation before and we got a little excited and probably panicked a little.”

Offensively, Cape Fear had no one to handle the Blue Devils’ Magnolia, Arkansas, duo of Lillie Moore and Kisi Young. Moore had 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists; Young 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Guard Lenaejha Evans also had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds while Brodi Byrd added 15 points and Nija Collier 13 points and six rebounds before fouling out.

Assist leader Caitlyn Stewart went to the bench with two fouls just 1:18 into the game but Lexy Watts stepped in with a pair of standout passes for assists in the early run.

“That’s one thing about this team; we don’t miss a thing whoever we have in there because of our depth,” McKinstry said.

Defensively, KCKCC limited the Sea Devils to 24 of 67 shots for 35.8 percent, far under their season average of .471. Cape Fear also managed just five 3-pointers in 21 attempts (.238), again well under the season average of 41 percent.

Other than just 13 of 27 free throws, the Blue Devils were 32 of 72 from the field (.444) and 6 of 22 from 3-point (.273) and thoroughly dominated the rebounding 51-32 with 16 rebounds coming off the offensive boards.

“Thirteen of 27 free throws is just awful but we’ve got to forget those and all the miscues (21 turnovers) and get ready for Saturday,” McKinstry said.

With a boisterous partisan crowd voicing support, Byrd opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers and KCKCC never trailed, surging ahead 10-2 on the way to the 25-5 lead.

KCKCC led 46-30 at halftime with Moore leading the way with 15 points and seven rebounds. Biggest lead was 63-40 midway through the third quarter.

“Our crowd was fantastic, it was more like a home game,” McKinstry said. “Now we have an obligation to represent our conference, the toughest in the country.

Dramatic Rymer home run lets KCKCC nip No. 9 Highland, 10-9

Alexis Rymer (KCKCC photo)

Freshman Alexis Rymer’s first collegiate home run was one she’ll never forget – a dramatic 3-run shot in the bottom of the sixth inning that rallied Kansas City Kansas Community College to a 10-9 win over Highland Thursday.

Ranked No. 9 in the latest NJCAA DII softball rankings, Highland (11-5) ended the Blue Devils’ nine-game winning streak with a 10-2 win in the opening game and the Scotties led 6-0 before the Blue Devils erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning in the second game. Highland went back ahead with a run In the fifth and two in the sixth.

Trailing 9-7 in the sixth, Devin Purcell and Shay Grosstephan started the inning with singles and after a pop-out, Rymer belted a 3-run home run that proved to be a game-winner after the Blue Devils survived a harrowing seventh inning.

“We walked the first hitter (Alexis Hodapp) intentionally,” KCKCC coach Lana Ross said. Grosstephan got the first out on a ground ball to Hannah Redick at short but then gave up a walk. A line drive to Redick got the second out before a passed ball put runners on second and third before Grosstephan induced Sirena Salazar to hit a game-ending fly ball to Rymer in right.

Grosstephan went the distance for the win, allowing 11 hits and nine runs, three of which were unearned. She struck out one and walked three.

Mackenzie Pinkerton doubled and singled twice, Redick doubled and singled and Grosstephen singled twice. Rymer had a two-run single and Redick, Purcell, Grosstephan, Pinkerton, Paige Froshey and Britney Smith drove in runs in the 7-run fourth inning.

Highland took a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the opening game but led only 4-2 before scoring three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings.

Rymer and Purcell each had two hits for KCKCC with Purcell and Kaylee Arnzen driving in the two runs in the 10-2 loss. Pinkerton took the loss, allowing 11 hits and 10 runs, three of which were unearned. She struck out three and walked two.

Originally scheduled for a doubleheader at Southeastern Iowa Saturday, that twin bill has been moved back to next Wednesday at 1 and 3 p.m.

Blue Devils’ streak to 18 with sweep of Allen County

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Kansas City Kansas Community College scored in bunches Thursday in a sweep of Allen County that extended the Blue Devils’ winning streak to 18 games in a row.

Of the 22 runs scored in the 10-7, 12-2 sweep, 19 scored in just four innings. The two teams were right back in action today in a twin bill in Iola, games originally scheduled for Saturday but moved up because of threatening weather.

The wins kept the Blue Devils (20-5) firmly entrenched atop the Jayhawk Conference with a 10-0 record. Johnson County (6-0) is the only other unbeaten team in the conference while perennial power Cowley College is 5-1.

Coach Matt Goldbeck was particularly pleased with the Blue Devils’ hitting approach.

“Offensively, we’ve preached the importance of putting the ball in play,” Goldbeck said. “We struck only twice in the first game and four times in the second – a really good job of working the concept and making it work.”

Orlando Ortiz (6-0) stayed unbeaten in the 10-7 opener, allowing seven hits, walking two and striking out four. Ortiz had a shutout until the fifth when the Red Devils scored five runs on four hits and three Blue Devil errors. However, KCKCC had a 10-0 lead by that time. Gaby Ramos pitched the seventh, striking out one.

“Ortiz set the tone with four dominant innings,” Goldbeck said. “We lost our focus in the fifth but were able to fight them off with Ramos closing out the game.”

Four Blue Devils had two hits. Kemper Bednar doubled and tripled, J.T. Goodfellow and Jose Sosa each singled and doubled and Kevin Santiago had a pair of singles.

KCKCC jumped in front 6-0 in the first on four hits aided by four Allen County errors. Traice Harter and Eric Hinostroza started the big inning with singles and Goodfellow doubled in one run and Sosa another.

A Santiago single and Goodfellow triple added a run in the second and the Blue Devils stretched the lead to 10-3 with a 3-run fourth. After an Eduardo Acosta single and a walk, Santiago singled in a run, Goodfellow drove in his third with a sacrifice fly and Sosa doubled in the final run.

The Blue Devils broke open a tight pitcher’s duel with six runs in the sixth inning in the second game. Allen took a 2-0 lead in the first on a walk and three two-out hits before Carlos Soto closed the door on the Red Devils, giving up just two singles the next five innings. He walked six and struck out four before Max Stroth pitched a hitless seventh.

“Soto had a tough first inning but then really settled in,” Goldbeck said.

Six of the Blue Devils 12 hits were for extra bases led by Santiago, who tripled with the bases loaded and singled twice. Sosa and Harter both doubled and singled; Griffin Everitt tripled and Acosta and Bednar doubled.

Trailing 2-0, KCKCC went ahead 4-2 in the second on four straight two-out hits. Everitt started the rally with a triple and with two outs, Acosta doubled and Harter, Hinostroza and Santiago rapped consecutive singles.

Santiago’s bases-clearing triple was the big blow as the Blue Devils broke the game open with a 6-run sixth inning. Harter singled in the first run and Sosa doubled in Santiago.

The Blue Devils closed out the win in the seventh, scoring twice without a hit – one on a wild pitch, the other on a passed ball.