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CEDAR RAPIDS — Jared Eivins was in agony, watching his Cedar Rapids Jefferson teammates play baseball from the dugout.
The mental anguish of being idle and not contributing for the J-Hawks was much worse than the physical pain from a separated shoulder that sidelined him June 27. The good thing for Eivins and the J-Hawks was his ability to overcome both for the postseason.
Eivins rapped a base hit, driving in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, and lifted the J-Hawks to a 3-2 victory over Cedar Rapids Prairie Friday night in the first round of the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 4A substate 5 tournament at Jefferson.
Eivins missed about 10 games, suffering the injury in a doubleheader against Iowa City West. He started taking live cuts in practice two days earlier.
“There is not a better way,” Eivins said about his return. “Moving on in substate is huge for the whole team. I’m glad I was part of it.”
The Jefferson team rushed the field, huddling around him Eivins in the base path between first and second. The injured shoulder was not an issue during the celebration.
“I liked it,” said Eivins, who was given the ball from his winning hit after the game. “You can’t do anything about it. I wasn’t worried about getting injured again.”
Jefferson Coach Kyle Rodenkirk praised Eivins for his mental toughness and his composure. He welcomed the sophomore back to the leadoff spot in the lineup. Eivins is hoping to avoid surgery and missing the prep football season.
“He’s a gamer,” Rodenkirk said. “The kid has a fractured shoulder that was separated. He comes up and gets a base hit and the winning hit.”
Eivins stepped to the plate with bases loaded and one out. The infield was drawn in, so he was focused on making contact and putting the ball in play. He ended the game the same way he started it, hitting a single.
“I was nervous of course,” Eivins said. “I don’t even remember where the last pitch was but I know I drove it to right field.”
Jefferson (24-14-1) loaded the bases when Manny Olutunde smacked the first pitch of the inning to center for a single. Cam Frazier added an infield single and Ben Koering reached when Prairie couldn’t field his bunt attempt.
Rodenkirk gathered the team before the inning and said pitches should be near the zone. Olutunde delivered with an aggressive approach.
“Manny did that,” Rodenkirk said. “I got on him early for not getting a bunt down. He came back and picked up the team in a big way, sparking that inning.”
The rest of the game was ugly in stretches, despite solid pitching performances from Koering and Prairie’s Drew Yanecek. Both allowed just two runs. Koering went 6 1/3 with five strikeouts.
“We worked on a lot of off-speed,” Koering said. “Usually when I hit spots with my curveball and change (up) it usually works well.”
Both teams combined for 10 errors. Prairie’s first run came when Ben Boldt reached on an error to start the second. He moved to second on a balk and Cooper Reittinger drove him in with a two-out double down the left-field line for an early lead.
Jefferson scored two on three miscues in the fifth.
The stress levels rose in the seventh when Prairie rallied with one out in the seventh. Cal Clark hit a double and stole third. Spencer Van Scoyoc, who came in to relieve starter Koering, had a pitch reach the backstop, allowing Clark scooted home with the tying run.
“I think I might have to go on blood pressure medicine,” Rodenkirk said with a laugh. “A win is a win.”
Marcus Colbert and Spencer Hunt led the J-Hawks with two hits apiece.
The Hawks had their chances but run into a couple outs and didn’t execute in the field at crucial moments.
“We were in position to make plays,” Prairie Coach Matt Thede said. “It probably should have been a 0-0 game if both teams would have fielded things clean.
“We’re not going to second-guess anything. That is the way baseball is played. Sometimes you get the bounces and sometimes you don’t. They got the last little hit. We tried to fight as long as we could.”
The loss ended Prairie season at 14-22 and Thede’s five-year tenure with the Hawks. He will be joining the administration at Mount Vernon High School. He won more than 100 games at Prairie.
Thede said the Hawks have bright futures and were a lot of fun to work with this season. He was emotional after the game, talking to his players. They have a special place in his heart, hoping they forgive him for any coaching mistakes in the past.
“I’ll be turning in a uniform here soon,” Thede said. “I don’t forget games. I have a bunch of orange and black sitting at home in my dresser. I have a baseball wreath the seniors gave me. I’ll never forget this stuff or these guys.”
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