Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Tom Cronk constantly preaches the importance of perseverance to his Liberty High baseball team.
Sophomore catcher TJ Kimm proved Saturday that preaching is paying off.
Kimm fouled off six straight 0-2 pitches before lining a triple to right field that broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning and Liberty High never trailed again in a 6-2 win over Clear Creek Amana (5-7) in the opening game of the fifth annual Crosstown Classic at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City.
“He was up fighting and that’s what we talk about,” Cronk said of Kimm. “When you get to two strikes you just battle and you make pitchers work and TJ just exemplified what we are trying to do at the plate with our approach.”
The triple from Kimm ignited the Liberty High offense as the Lightning got back on track after dropping both games of a conference doubleheader at Linn-Mar on Friday.
Liberty High scored five runs and had six of its eight hits over the final three innings to break open a 1-1 tie after three innings.
“I think our team runs on energy a lot,” Kimm said. “When we can get those one or two big hits it gets us all playing at a higher level.”
Keian Secrist pitched five strong innings and had two hits and drove in a run as Liberty High evened it season record at 6-6.
Secrist allowed one run on four hits while striking out six and walking three in five innings.
“I just settled down a little bit as the game went on,” Secrist said. “Early on I was too worried about throwing hard and trying to get strikeouts but I settled down and let my defense work behind me.”
Kimm entered Saturday just 2-for-21 on the season and struck out in his first at bat before coming up with the biggest hit of the game in the fourth.
Alec Boldt singled leading off the Liberty High fourth and moved to second on a balk.
Kimm fell behind 0-2 against Clear Creek Amana starter Brock Reade but fouled off six pitches before ripping a line drive down the right field line that scored Boldt and gave Liberty High a lead it would never give up.
“The last couple of days I’ve been struggling just a little bit just to get the ball in play so I went in there trying to square balls up,” Kimm said. “It took a while but I finally got one to go my way.”
It was the first extra-base hit of the season and first career triple for Kimm.
“That was great for TJ to break out,” Cronk said. “He’s had good at bats all year and the results haven’t been there but today he had a huge at bat for us. I wasn’t sure he was going to get to third but he did.”
The 2-1 lead was enough for Secrist who struck out three over the final three innings and didn’t allow a run after the second inning.
“Early I had the breaking ball going and it kind of went away for a couple of innings but it came back to me as I finished it out and that was good,” Secrist said. “I felt better as the game went on.”
Liberty High broke the game open with three runs in the fifth inning.
Sam Funke had an RBI single in the three-run Lightning fifth inning that gave Liberty High a 6-1 lead.
“We played sharp and that was good because last night we didn’t play great,” Cronk said. “I was real proud of how we came out today. It was really good for the guys to come back and respond after not our greatest game last night.”
Clear Creek Amana had six hits but left 12 runners on base while dropping its third straight game.
The Clippers left the bases loaded in the third and sixth and left two runners on in both the second and seventh.
“That’s been our issue for the last week or so, we get guys on and we just haven’t been able to manufacture them in,” Clear Creek Amana coach Brent Henry said. “It’s frustrating, the guys are doing the things right to get on but we just can’t complete the innings.”
Clear Creek Amana 010 001 0 – 2 6 1
Liberty High 100 230 x – 6 8 1
W – Keian Secrist L – Brock Reade
2B – ICL: Nolan Frey, Keian Secrist
3B – ICL: TJ Kimm
Did you enjoy this subscription free article? Help keep Your Prep Sports free by becoming a member.