CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Prairie baseball coach Todd Rima tells his pitchers, “walks are runs.”
After issuing 17 free passes in his first four starts, hard-throwing Prairie right-hander Harrison Cook took his coach’s words to heart.
“I’ve really been focusing on getting ahead first pitch,” Cook said after the Class 4A third-ranked Hawks defeated Cedar Rapids Kennedy, 9-2, in a Mississippi Valley Conference game Friday night at Prairie High School. “It’s really made all the difference. Limiting my walks has helped me altogether and put my team in a position to win. They help me a lot as well swinging the bat and I’ve just got to put it down the middle.”
Against the Cougars, Cook (4-1) was terrific. He allowed just two hits and an unearned run with no walks and eight strikeouts. Couple this outing with a rain-shortened, three-inning effort against Cedar Rapids Washington on June 18 and Cook has walked just one batter in his last two starts.
“Harrison has been getting better from his first start,” Rima said. “He’s been really, really good lately. Tonight I thought he was as good as he has been. When he throws like that, he makes us a pretty good team.”
At 6-foot-5, 170 pounds and with a pitching velocity that reaches the upper 80s in miles per hour, the belief is that as Cook continues to physically mature, he will add even more ticks to his fastball.
Cook was a 2017 second team all-state honoree by the Iowa Newspaper Association during a sophomore season in which he led the Hawks with 47 runs batted in. Two months after Prairie was eliminated from the state tournament, he gave the University of Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference his verbal commitment to play college baseball.
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“Everywhere you go, they’ve got nice facilities but the coaching staff really sold it for me,” Cook said.
Senior Griff Clark and junior Hunter Whinery each had three hits and drove in two runs for Prairie (22-8, 14-5 MVC), which remains in first place in the MVC Valley Division.
Prairie senior Mason Hook collected two hits, a walk and two RBIs.
Senior Zakary Packingham posted two of Kennedy’s three hits. Junior pitcher Bo Nunemaker (0-1) allowed six hits and six runs in 2 2/3 innings pitched for the Cougars (12-13, 10-9), who visit MVC Mississippi Division leader Cedar Rapids Xavier for a doubleheader on Monday.
Prairie is also in action on Monday with two home games against Dubuque Hempstead. With seven remaining regular-season games, the Hawks are displaying characteristics reminiscent of the teams that reached the state tournament in each of the past two seasons, which included a title winner two years ago.
“I love the way we responded the last two nights,” Rima said. “I think our energy was great, our effort as really good, our focus was there. I feel like we’re on the verge of playing our best ball.”
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