116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — It was a replay, only with a later and bigger ending.
A six-run top of the seventh inning rallied Cedar Rapids Prairie’s baseball team past West Des Moines Dowling, 8-4, Thursday afternoon at Banks Field in a Class 4A state tournament quarterfinal.
MORE PHOTOS: See more photos from Prairie’s win over Dowling
These Hawks have some sort of flair for the dramatic, obviously. They came from behind in the sixth inning of their substate final last week to beat Cedar Falls.
On the biggest stage, in their very next game, they upped the ante. Maybe score six runs in the first inning next time, boys.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Prairie outfielder Colton Forslund, with a smile. “But we always like to scare coach a little bit.”
Prairie (33-8) plays top-ranked and top-seeded Pleasant Valley (35-4) in a 5 p.m. Friday semifinal. PV won a regular-season game between the teams, 4-3.
“The guys’ energy was good, they stuck with it. They’re confident in that situation,” said Prairie Coach James Nelson. “The message really doesn’t change much for us. We feel like all the time, no matter who is leading off, no matter what the situation is, that now is a great time, now is a great time. We were like ‘Hey, enjoy the moment. This is a great moment, go make something happen.’ And we did.”
Dowling (32-8) took advantage of some sloppy Prairie defensive play in the fourth to score three runs and assume a 4-2 lead. That’s the way the game stayed until the seventh.
Caden Richards led off the seventh with a walk, then pinch hitter Aiden Moeller singled through the left side. It was just his second hit of the season in just his 11th at-bat.
A wild pitch moved guys up a base, and leadoff hitter Bronx Lewis singled up the middle to tie the game, going to second on the throw to the plate. A hit by pitch and lineout to right was followed by a Brandon Vlcko infield single that loaded the bases with one out.
Nate Keiper singled up the middle to score two and put Prairie (33-8) on top, 6-4. Again, the runners moved up a bag on the throw home, scoring when Forslund chopped a single over a drawn-in Dowling shortstop.
The comeback was complete.
“We’re always confident in that situation, know if we start with one guy, it’s just going to keep on rolling,” Forslund said. “That’s exactly what happened. Once we got the first guy on, and we got a pinch hitter get a hit, we were confident. Because Bronx was coming up.”
Pitcher Jackson Nove worked around a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh, and that was that. Nove, headed to the University of Kentucky, threw a complete game in his final high school start, allowing six hits and four walks, striking out four.
He retired 11 of the final 12 hitters he faced.
“I felt alright,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I had my best outing, by far. I threw well enough to keep my team in it, give them an opportunity to win.”
Prairie was able to get freshman Dowling ace Blake Larson out of the game after five innings, which was humongous. Already a TCU commit, the lefty showed off a 90-mile-per-hour fastball here, striking out seven and giving up three hits, including Cal Sullivan’s opposite-field, two-run home run.
As a freshman, Larson was limited to 90 pitches. Juniors and seniors can throw as many as 110 pitches in a game.
“That was huge,” Nelson said. “He is tough. We knew it was going to be a battle getting anything on him. That’s why we knew that when we were down two, we had to keep it there. To be honest, I kind of forgot that he was a freshman and had to be out after 90 pitches.”
“He’s a super young athlete,” Forslund said. “It’s just crazy to see him go out there and have the confidence he does at such a young age. He’s probably the hardest arm we’ve seen this year. We knew we were going to (face) him. We just persevered.”
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