Cedar Rapids Prairie holds off Waukee, heads to 4A state championship baseball game

Hawks score early and hang on for 4-3 semifinal win

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DES MOINES — Forgive Cal Clark. When you go to catch a mile-high popup that literally is your team’s season, you’d think you might want to use both hands.

The Cedar Rapids Prairie shortstop didn’t, securing the ball with only his left and absolutely without issue. No big deal.

Rally officially snuffed, game over, the Hawks are in the state baseball tournament finals.

“I saw it coming down,” Prairie’s Tyler Nunemaker said, after his team’s 4-3 win over Waukee in Friday night’s Class 4A semifinals at Principal Park. “It was a shot way in the sky. I saw it come down to Cal, and when he got under it, I knew we had it.”

“To be honest, I was just thinking ‘Don’t drop it,’” Clark said. “It was a pretty easy play, though ... We’ve got a chance to finish tomorrow night.”

Prairie (37-6) finished here, scoring four times in the first two innings and holding on. Iowa City West (35-6) is the opponent Saturday night at 7:30.

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The Hawks’ second trip to state has been a memorable one, to say the least. The last Mississippi Valley Conference champion, by the way, was Cedar Rapids Kennedy in 2010.

“We’re just a team that’s going to come down here and compete, show a ton of grit,” said Prairie Coach Todd Rima.

“I mean, we talked about it, but to actually be here now, it feels like a dream,” said Nunemaker. “Our motto has been ‘Finish,’ and I’m glad we have a chance to close it out tomorrow night.”

Prairie scored an unearned run in the first inning, then added three earned ones in the second. Blake Viall had a run-scoring double down the third-base line and Nunemaker brought home two with a single to left.

The Hawks had only one hit the rest of the way, as reliever Alec Rickabaugh shut them down and allowed Waukee (31-12) to get back in it. The Warriors scored a pair in the third to knock out Prairie starting pitcher Keegan Sanborn.

As he did in Prairie’s quarterfinal win over Davenport West and its substate final victory over Cedar Falls, Jared Street came on in relief and was money. He shut out Waukee until the seventh, unable to get the third out after striking out the first two hitters.

He still recorded his second win of this tournament.

“You want the ball in the kid’s hand,” Rima said. “There are guys with better stuff than him, but there aren’t guys who are as tough as that kid. He wants to be in that moment, he lives for that moment. He’s why we’re here. Jared Street is our MVP of the tournament, there’s no question.”

Walker McDonald walked with two outs in the seventh, and Mark Primrose reached on an infield single, McDonald scooting to third on a Clark throwing error past second. Jordan Yaukovic singled to left to make it a 4-3 game and end Street’s night.

Cooper Reittinger came on and hit cleanup batter Sam Powell to load the bases, but Jon Rozeboom hit his aforementioned high pop, and the rest you know.

“At the end, my mind was telling me ‘Let’s go,’ but maybe my body was a little tired,” Street said. “I iced my arm five or six times since Wednesday, and I felt good. I think I just lost it there. I’m glad Cooper came in and saved it for me. I’m so proud, I gave him a big old hug and said ‘Thank you so much.’”

“I knew we’d find a way to get out of it. We always do,” Nunemaker said. “I was getting a little nervous. But Coop has been a fantastic guy to finish the entire year. To be able to get that pop fly ...”

He didn’t have to say the rest.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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