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Sydney Kennedy fires a pitch against Wahlert.

Western Dubuque’s softball team entered the 2020 season after finishing 15-15 in 2019. The Bobcats hosted Iowa City Liberty for a doubleheader June 16 to open the new year. Both of the games were tight, contested matchups, but Western Dubuque was able to get the sweep thanks to some great pitching.

Junior Sydney Kennedy got the ball in game one. She allowed only five hits over seven innings while striking out nine Lightning batters. The Bobcats were trailing 1-0 going into the bottom of the sixth. A few Liberty errors and senior Emma Gile’s run batted in allowed for Western Dubuque to hold onto the first game 2-1.

“We were able to compete against some tough teams and especially some tough pitching,” coach Rachael Neal said. “Our focus this week was to take each game one pitch at a time.”

Kennedy’s performance was shown up in game two as sophomore Meridith Hoerner shutout Liberty. Hoerner allowed only five base runners to reach and struck out ten batters. Junior Sara Horsfield and Kennedy totaled four hits in seven at-bats with two runners batted in. A few more errors for the Lightning allowed another run to cross home plate, and Western Dubuque completed the sweep with a 3-0 win.

“With a long layoff prior to the season,” Neal said, “it was great to see the girls come in ready to work hard and compete. The girls have done a great job making the plays, pitches or having good at-bats during games already.”

The Bobcats visited Wahlert two days later, June 18, and split the doubleheader.

Kennedy was lights out once again for Western Dubuque as she threw a complete-game shutout. She sat down 10 batters via strikeout, and the Bobcats’ offense woke up for the first time in 2020. Junior Abigail Kluesner drove in three base runners on three hits. Junior Meg Besler also drove in one run as WD took game one of the series 6-1.

Game two took nine innings to decide a winner. WD trailed 4-0 going into the top of the sixth but brought in four runners over the next two innings to force extra innings. The Golden Eagles scratched one runner across in the ninth to hand the Bobcats their first loss.

Horsfield and Besler each had two hits and Besler added another run batted to her yearly total.

“The MVC is such a strong conference,” Neal said. “Last year, we faced at least one ranked opponent a week. Our experience will be great when we get into the postseason. I do think the MVC will have teams down at State this season.”