It was getting toward late summer a year ago, and Nick McCool hadn’t received a job offer.
Finally, a call came from Iowa Valley. An elementary PE job. And a varsity head-coaching job.
Just what he wanted. Plus a bonus — the softball team is quite good.
The Tigers take a 13-1 record, the South Iowa Conference lead and a Class 2A No. 11 ranking into their game Tuesday at Belle Plaine.
“This group of girls has really jelled together,” said McCool, who had coached four years of varsity baseball at West Delaware, his alma mater. “There’s a core group of seniors, and a good younger group of players that had been in the system. They’ve really meshed together.”
The Tigers’ lone loss came to Keokuk, a ranked 3A team. And their wins include a 3-2 triumph over 4A Iowa City West.
“We went in there thinking we could compete with them. We wanted to give them a game,” McCool said. “We hung around and hung around. It was a big win for us and gave us a boost for the rest of the year.”
McCool uses a two-pitcher rotation with sophomores Stacy Roggentien (8-0, 0.62 ERA) and Gina Svare (5-1, 1.69 ERA) sharing the load.
“They keep us in every game,” McCool said.
Offensively, the Tigers rely on balance. Seven of the nine regulars are batting .255 or better. Senior third baseman Emily Timm leads the way at .442, and her seven doubles and two home runs boost her slugging percentage to .744.
Svare is the other .300-plus hitter. She’s at .359.
“When the top of the order isn’t producing, the bottom is,” McCool said.
Despite the high ranking, the Tigers weren’t exactly protected when the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union released its postseason pairings. They travel to perennial power Solon in Round 1.
“It’s a tough road, right from the start,” McCool said. “It’s all matter of mind over matter.”
J-Hawks turn it around
Larry Niemeyer didn’t panic when his team started this season by dropping both ends of a double-header to Dubuque Wahlert.
After all, it happened last year.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson has rebounded with 12 consecutive wins, and 14 in its last 15 games. The J-Hawks (14-3 overall, 11-3 Mississippi Valley Conference) have opened a 2 1/2-game lead in the Valley Division.
“It’s like our teams usually are — our pitching is good, our defense is good and we’ve got to improve our hitting a little bit,” Niemeyer said.
Niemeyer, whose all-time nationally leading career victory total stands at 1,972, said the intensity will pick up at practice as July approaches.
“We’re going to change our practice habits, we’re going to do things differently than we’ve done earlier this year,” he said. “We’ll change our focus a little.”
Jefferson plays at Cedar Rapids Prairie in a double-header on Tuesday.