Prairie sweeps City High in MVC Mississippi clash

Nunemaker helps lead second-ranked Hawks as Jalen Rima joins team

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IOWA CITY — Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Tyler Nunemaker hadn’t played center field until the start of this season.

One of the reasons he had to make a move from the spot he held in right field was the absence of senior Jalen Rima, who prepared to play football for the University of Northern Iowa. Both provided a little extra excitement Friday night.

Rima made his return, serving as a courtesy and pinch runner for the Hawks. Nunemaker tallied four hits, including two doubles in the nightcap of a doubleheader sweep over Iowa City High at Mercer Park. The Class 4A second-ranked Hawks secured at least a tie of the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division with 4-2 and 8-3 victories.

Prairie (28-4, 18-4) claimed its first division title in baseball last season.

“I’m just happy for our guys,” Prairie Coach Todd Rima said. “We lost some quality kids last year, so for our kids to come out and play the way they have they deserve to be in the position they’re in right now.”

Nunemaker is one of those key figures, helping the Hawks. He has been one of the team’s top hitters, smacking a two-run double in the first inning of the second game. He scored on Cooper Reittinger’s base hit, giving Prairie a 3-0 lead. Nunemaker had two singles in the opener.

“I was just seeing the ball well,” Nunemaker said. “I was trying to be as patient as I could to get my pitch. It worked for the most part.”

Nunemaker, who stepped into center field on opening day, was busy on defense. He had a number of putouts, including all three in the third inning of Game 1. Nunemaker made a diving grab to rob City High’s Griffin Fellows of a hit and then ended the inning with a running grab in right field.

“He’s made every play for us,” Rima said. “He’s going and getting to balls in the gap, throwing to the right base and doing all the little things you want your center fielder to do.

“At the plate, he’s leading us. He’s having an all-state season.”

Jalen Rima opted to focus on his future at UNI, attending classes and football workouts to assure playing time. He talked with his dad and saw an opening in his schedule, allowing to join the team.

“It felt good to be back,” Jalen Rima said. “I was pretty lost when I first left. Not having baseball. I watched it a lot.”

When the younger Rima’s schedule allowed for a return, Todd Rima said the team held a confidential-ballot vote, deciding whether or not to allow him to join the roster. The motion passed, 25-0, according to Todd Rima.

Jalen Rima provided an emotional boost.

“It’s awesome,” Nunemaker said. “The energy in the dugout is unbelievable now that he is here. It’s a lot more positive energy, that’s for sure. He’s a great guy to have around, and the fact that he gets to play a little, too, is the cherry on top.”

On the field, Jalen Rima served as a courtesy runner for catcher Nic Mougin and a pinch runner in the opener. In the nightcap, he ran for Mougin again, stealing second and later scoring. He will remain in that role until he gets back to the form that had him as a leadoff man and outfielder a year ago.

“Right now, that’s how we’re going to use him,” Todd Rima said. “It’s just nice to have our whole team here.

“Until we get him to where he gets the swings that he needs, that’s the way we’ll use him. And, the other guys are doing their job.”

They came together to do their jobs against the Little Hawks.

The Hawks scored four straight runs after falling behind 1-0 in the first inning of the twin bill. Reittinger and Levi Usher had back-to-back doubles in the second. Usher scored on an error, making it 2-1. Blake Viall added an RBI and scored to give the Hawks the lead for good in the opener.

Viall and Reittinger also had two hits in the nightcap.

“I think that was the epitome of a team win,” Todd Rima said. “I think our pitchers did a good job. Our defense was outstanding.

“It was a team effort up and down the lineup. Everybody executed when we needed them to and that is who we have to be.”

City High’s Dylan Leigh and Brett McCleary had two hits apiece in the second game. Caleb Sass and Joey Schnoebelen each had an RBI for the Little Hawks (15-17, 10-12).

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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