116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CARROLL — Collin Miller quickly realized that he was poised for success.
The Mid-Prairie right-hander knew after the very first batter he faced that it was going to be a good day.
“Right after the first inning,” Miller said. “Just get that first strikeout out of the way and I was rolling from there.”
Miller frustrated and flustered batters for six innings, striking out 10 and propelling the sixth-seeded Golden Hawks to a 3-2 victory over No. 3-seed Cascade in a Class 2A state baseball quarterfinal Tuesday at Merchants Park. The Golden Hawks advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2007.
“We have a great group of guys out here,” Miller said. “I knew we could make it this far. If we keep hitting and pitching like we have, I think we can go all the way.”
Cascade won the regular-season matchup between the two River Valley Conference foes. Mid-Prairie welcomed another shot at the Cougars and a chance to avenge that loss.
“We had a little revenge on our minds,” Mid-Prairie’s Alex Bean said. “It was good to win.”
Miller’s workmanlike effort kept the Cougars off balance, limiting them to just three hits through five innings. He struck out the first two batters he faced and recorded multiple strikeouts in four innings. Miller struck out three straight in the third inning.
“You can see the maturity,” Mid-Prairie Coach Kyle Mullet said about Miller. “The thing about Collin is he competes. He’s confident in himself and that’s what he brings to the table.
“When he has that first, with locating his pitches, and being able to pitch like that, that says a lot.”
Miller learned a lesson from his previous state experience, pitching in a 2020 quarterfinal loss. Miller, and his teammates, struggled with command in that 13-3 loss to West Lyon. He focused on throwing it over the plate Tuesday.
“I knew I had to come out and throw strikes,” Miller said. “Striking out the first two guys really helped me out the rest of that game. Just throwing strikes helped out.”
Mid-Prairie (19-10) grabbed the first lead of the game in the second. Tyler Helmuth provided a spark with a leadoff triple to deep center. Dylan Henry reached on a misplayed grounder ruled a hit.
Brock Harland followed with a sac bunt to bring in Helmuth. An errant throw home after the out allowed Henry to move up to third.
Miller helped himself with an RBI single to score Henry, making it 2-0 after two.
“He gave me a curveball and it was a ball so I knew he was going to try and find the zone the next pitch,” Miller said. “I took it, barreled up that ball and sent it the other way.”
Mid-Prairie manufactured another run in the third. Cain Brown led off with a single and stole second. He moved to third on a grounder and scored on Bean’s line drive single through the right side of a drawn-in infield.
“It gave us a lot of confidence,” Bean said. “It boosted our bats.”
Cascade’s offense was dormant until the sixth. The Cougars managed to cut the deficit to one. Tanner Simon walked and scored on a wild pitch. Mick Hoffman, running for catcher Cade Rausch who reached on a fielder’s choice, crossed the plate on Cooper Hummel’s sacrifice fly.
The Cougars threatened in the seventh, getting a leadoff walk to Mason Otting and a bunt single from Justin Roling. Brown, who came in to relieve Miller in the seventh, picked off Roling, who represented the winning run. Brown coaxed consecutive fly outs to end it.
“That’s big,” Mullet said of the pickoff. “Cain Brown does an excellent job for us out of the pen, a left. He’s got such a good move and that’s a reason he’s there.”
Cascade ends the season at 20-6. The Cougars will return a lot of experience with expectations of being back here next year.
“We have a lot of people coming back next year that are going to be really, really good,” Hummel said. “The lower grades are really going to help us next year.”
Mid-Prairie advances to Thursday’s semifinal against second-seeded Estherville-Lincoln Central (32-2).