MARION — He got everything but a game ball out of it. Someone should have hooked him up with that.
James Nelson’s first go-around as a varsity head baseball coach was a good go-around Monday night. His Cedar Rapids Prairie Hawks played pretty darned well overall in an 8-2 victory over Marion in the nightcap of this Metro Tournament quarterfinal doubleheader.
Cedar Rapids Xavier won the opener, 13-0, in five innings over Mount Vernon.
Nelson previously was the head sophomore coach at the school but got promoted when Todd Rima decided just to concentrate on being head coach at Kirkwood Community College. Rima led Prairie to a whole bunch of success, including the Class 4A state championship in 2016.
“These kids have played for me, so the transition has been fairly smooth,” Nelson said. “Coach Rima did such a good job, I didn’t have to change a lot. It might have a different feel to it, but just keep going with what we’re doing. That base has kind of been laid before me. I’ve got to say I’m fortunate to walk into a pretty good situation.”
A situation with a Division I pitcher in senior Harrison Cook, who has signed with Kentucky and who might end up getting taken in next month’s Major League Baseball Draft. He had a brief workout Monday for the Los Angeles Angels.
Because of that, Prairie went with sophomores Jackson Nove and Caden Stoffer on the mound here and they responded by allowing just two hits and striking out eight in their six combined innings. Despite this being his first varsity game, Stoffer already has committed to Iowa.
“I thought we proved something tonight,” said Cook, who played first base and had a double, walk and run scored. “We had two sophomores throwing today, and you never know what you’re going to get. They threw up a bunch of zeroes. We swung the bats really well, I thought, against a good pitcher.”
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Prairie beat Marion lefty Rick Atkins, who has signed with South Dakota State. They got five hits off him and scored five runs in five innings, though only one was earned.
Marion committed six errors, which made seven of Prairie’s runs unearned. Hunter Whinery had a pair of hits, a run and RBI. Prairie went 31-9 last season, losing to Western Dubuque in a 4A substate final.
“I expect us to be really good this year,” Whinery said. “I think we have lots of talent.”
“I think some people might be sleeping on us,” added senior shortstop Logan Burg.
Prairie was ranked fourth in 4A preseason by the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association and Marion eighth in 3A. Xavier was the IHSBCA’s third-ranked team in 3A and played the part Monday, scoring seven runs in the first inning en route to its rout.
Six different Saints had RBIs in the inning. Bryson Bastian and Quinn Schulte had run-scoring hits in both the first and second innings.
Xavier and Prairie are scheduled to play their semifinal at Marion at 7 p.m. Marion and Mount Vernon will play a consolation game at 5 p.m.
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