Rare happenings doom Mid-Prairie

Golden Hawks fall to Wildcats at state baseball tournament

Mid-Prairie’s Will Cavanagh (11) swings at a pitch during their Class 2A state quarterfinal game at Principal Park in Des Moines on Monday, July 27, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Mid-Prairie’s Will Cavanagh (11) swings at a pitch during their Class 2A state quarterfinal game at Principal Park in Des Moines on Monday, July 27, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — It was unlike anything anybody had ever seen.

The 828 fans in attendance were shaking their heads. Media were amazed.

“I haven’t ever really been part of a game like that,” Mid-Prairie head baseball coach Andy Greiner said.

“I have played a lot of baseball, coached a lot of baseball, been around baseball all my life and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that happen,” West Lyon head coach Koury Kramer said.

In the Class 2A state quarterfinal 13-3 win by West Lyon, ranked sixth by the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association, over No. 6 Mid-Prairie in six innings Monday at Principal Park, West Lyon took a 5-0 lead in the second inning without a single hit. two hit batters, an error, a walk, a sacrifice fly and two walks brought Greiner to the mound to relieve starter Keegan Gingerich. Senior Monte Slabaugh came in and issued a walk, got a strikeout, another walk and a strikeout to end the inning. Eleven batters went to the plate and no one got a hit.

The next inning started with a walk, then the first hit of the game, a groundout and another walk before Greiner again made the trip to the mound and brought in Collin Miller, who went three innings before Kayden Reinier got the final two outs of the sixth inning. Gingerich, who had a 5-0 record this season, suffered his first loss.

“We had Keegan on the mound and we all believe in him,” Hawk senior Brad Tornow said. “We pride ourselves on our pitching. We knew the next guy up would do the job. That’s what we have seen through the season and in the postseason.”

The Hawks actually had seen something similar when they defeated Central Lee to qualify for state. In the third inning of that game, four walks and two errors resulted in four M-P runs without a hit through nine batters.

“We just got off to a rough start on the mound,” Greiner said. “I feel like a start like that makes it even more difficult as the game progresses. I felt like it snowballed on us a little bit. I could see us being down by a few runs, but not with no hits.

There were 15 walks in the game, four by West Lyon starter Jalyn Gramstad, the rest by three different Mid-Prairie pitchers. There were also three hit batters. After 3 1/2 innings, the Wildcats had 11 runs while the Golden Hawks had only sent 11 batters to the plate.

“We still felt like it was not out of our grasp,” Greiner said. “We just had a heckuva time getting going. We have not given up a lot of runs this year except maybe the first week. Our guys just had a really tough time finding the zone. It’s hard to imagine that nerves did not play a small part in it.”

The game could have been different had it not been played at the Chicago Cubs minor league park.

Mid-Prairie first baseman hit a shot that was somehow run down on the warning track by West Lyon’s center fielder. Any park played in during the season and that is a home run.

“If I would’ve went out, I think it would’ve kept us in the ballgame a lot better,” Rath said. It was the bottom of the first inning and would have put the Hawks up 1-0. “We kept pushing anyway because we always fight to win no matter what.”

The fact he hit a pitch at all surprised Kramer.

“The game plan was not to throw to him at all because of the respect we have for him,” Kramer said. “I didn’t care if the bases were loaded, the game plan was to stay away from giving him anything to hit. He’s a great player and he’s got a great future.”

The Hawks didn’t care about the future, they had plans for the here and now.

“We knew we could do it,” Tornow said. “This was our year.”

“We were just better than them today,” said Kramer, who played on the last West Lyon team to make state. “Our kids have been in a lot of big games, winning a title in the UNI-Dome, running on the blue oval, playing in substate in basketball.”

The win advances West Lyon to Thursday’s semifinal against defending champion and top-ranked Van Meter, which won an extra-inning game 1-0 over Treynor. The two teams have history. West Lyon defeated Van Meter for the football state 2A title last fall.

Facing an end to the game and season by the mercy rule down 11-0, Mid-Prairie rallied to score three runs in the fourth inning. Slabaugh’s sacrifice fly plated Rath, who had walked. Will Cavanagh smacked a two-run double that scored Reinier and Vinnie Bowlin. Cavanagh’s hit was one of only three for the Hawks. Gingerich hit a two-out single in the third inning and Tornow had a no-out single in the fifth after Gingerich had walked. A strikeout, a caught stealing and a strikeout ended the threat.

“It was first and third and we’re thinking station to station and we just wanted to put some pressure on them and see how they react,” Greiner said. “They cut off the last first and third we had, so I thought that was what they would do again and they didn’t and it backfired a little bit.”

The Hawks went down in order in the sixth.

Mid-Prairie loses seven seniors, three that started Monday. Six starters return and three of the four pitchers that saw action Monday will be back, including Collin Miller.

“Miller has been a really positive influence on the mound for us,” Greiner said. “I’m really proud of the way he handles himself on and off the field. The third inning is awful early to put him in, but it wasn’t an optimal situation. We had to do everything we could possibly do.”

Something the Mid-Prairie Golden Hawks will continue to do in every effort to return to the state tournament.