Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – City High softball coach Jeff Koenig made a bold prediction after his team was thoroughly defeated by Davenport North in both games of a season-opening doubleheader on May 22.
Koenig said his young squad, which includes three eighth graders playing key roles, would learn from the defeats and get better over time.
His words now look prophetic because the Little Hawks have improved considerably over the past few weeks.
That was apparent on Tuesday as City swept rival West High in a doubleheader at City by scores of 9-2 and 4-3.
West had won the previous eight games in the series and 20 of the last 21 games against City overall. City’s last victory over West before Tuesday’s sweep came in 2013.
“They’ve taken us to the woodshed,” Koenig said of West. “(Our players) were asking us, ‘hey, when’s the last time we beat them?’ And I told them, the last time we beat them was when my daughter, who is an assistant coach, was a junior (at City).”
Ayana Lindsey was only in fourth grade the last time City High had defeated West High in softball. She is now one of City High’s top players as an eighth grader.
Lindsey showed all of her skills during Tuesday’s doubleheader, including smacking a three-run home run in the first game, while also starring in centerfield.
She then pitched a complete game in the second game and helped her cause by getting two hits and scoring one run.
“She’s an incredible ball player,” Koenig said of Lindsey, who also plays shortstop. “That’s the first night she’s played center field.”
Fellow eight graders Carey Koenig and Ella Cook also have played prominent roles throughout the season, and again on Tuesday.
Koenig, who is Jeff Koenig’s daughter, played third base in the first game before moving to catcher for the second game.
Cook played first base in both games and combined for five hits in the two games, including three singles in the second game.
“If you look at our hits, our eighth graders are just leading the way,” said Jeff Koenig, who is in his third season as the City head coach. “The foundation is being put together and I think it’s bright.”
Lindsey credits her teammates for helping to make her transition to the varsity level much easier.
“I love my team, I love them,” Lindsey said. “They support me and we’re going to keep getting wins and we’re going to work together as a team and not as individuals.”
Lindsey also likes that she isn’t the only eighth grader playing a key role this season. She and Carey Koenig and Cook all push each other on a daily basis to succeed.
“They really support me,” Lindsey said.
In addition to her three hits in the second game, Cook also hit a ball that West High left fielder Brylee Klosterman caught in foul territory in the bottom of the sixth with the score tied at 3-3 and with a runner on third base. That allowed City to score what proved to be the game winning run.
Klosterman knew immediately after making the catch that he should have let the ball drop in foul territory in order to keep the runner on third base.
West coach Justin Lutjen blamed himself for Klosterman’s mental mistake.
“Her defense and her softball knowledge is far beyond most kids in high school,” Lutjen said of Klosterman. “She’s one of the only ones that in her mind I guarantee it was going across her mind, oh, my gosh, should I drop that? And she knew right away, that probably would've been the smarter play.
“But at the same time, who knows what happens. You let it drop and they might go on to score five runs. So I’m not going to fault her for that. If coach doesn’t tell her that we’re dropping balls in foul (territory), that’s on me. That’s not on her.”
Klosterman certainly did her part at the plate, combining for four hits in the doubleheader, including three in the second game. She belted a two-run home run in the fifth inning of the second game, giving West High a 2-0 lead.
But then City High answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to seize the momentum.
The Little Hawks also benefited from some veteran leadership as senior pitcher Gabi Hiatt scattered seven hits while going the distance in the first game. She was helped by a Little Hawk offense that pounded out 11 hits in the first game.
Lindsey and Cook combined to score more than half of City High’s nine runs in the first game, with Lindsey scoring three times and Cook twice.
City High also performed well on defense, committing no errors in either game.
“That last column is always kind of our Achilles heel and we left it zero-zero in the last column tonight,” Koenig said of his team’s defense. “We took care of business and we made plays. And then we had key hits.”
The Little Hawks suffered through some tough times during Jeff Koenig’s first two seasons as head coach. But he stayed optimistic knowing that help was on the way with the current eighth grade class.
City improved to 8-7 overall and 8-2 in the Mississippi Valley Conference with Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep.
“I knew the pipeline was filling up,” Jeff Koenig said. “And I knew if I could get in here and start laying the foundation for two years they would get here and they would help start getting us to the next level.”
Lutjen, meanwhile, is in a strange position with West High mired in a season-long slump. West High fell to 3-10 overall and 2-7 in conference play.
That is in contrast to the previous seasons under Lutjen when West High was ranked among the top teams in the state.
His current team is young and vulnerable.
“It’s either you keep showing up and working your tail off or you quit,” Lutjen said. “You have two choices really. We’ve got good kids and I think they’ll respond.
“It’s tough right now. We’re not used to losing at the varsity level. So we’re taking our lumps and a lot of kids are trying to figure it out.”
West High 000 110 0 – 2 7 2
City High 200 340 x – 9 11 0
Kylie Heisdorffer, Lauren Upchurch (4), Kayli Baldwin and Kaitlyn Fangmann; Gabi Hiatt and Jayden Young.
W – Gabi Hiatt L – Kylie Heisdorffer
HR – ICH: Ayana Lindsey.
West High 000 021 0 – 3 7 2
City High 000 031 x – 4 7 0
Abby Henderson and Fangmann; Ayana Lindsey and Carey Koenig.
W – Ayana Lindsey L – Abby Henderson
2B – ICW: Brylee Klosterman, Brooke Goodman; ICH: Ayana Lindsey.
HR – ICW: Brylee Klosterman.