Golden Hawks advance to 2A semifinal

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For Mid-Prairie, Tuesday’s state quarterfinal followed the same script as the Golden Hawks’ substate victory seven days earlier. 

Three early runs were enough for Mid-Prairie starter Collin Miller, who struck out 10 in the 3-2 win over No. 3 Cascade, sending the Hawks to the 2A state semifinals for the first time since 2007. 

Mid-Prairie did not score in the first matchup with Cascade senior Jack Carr on June 9, but the Golden Hawks chased the Cougar ace from the state tournament in the fourth inning on Tuesday. 

Carr, who entered the game with an ERA of 0.80, allowed three runs on nine hits with just one strikeout. 

“We saw him the last time we played them, and honestly we were putting the ball in play that game too,” Miller said. “We only had four or five strikeouts — so we were hitting him, we just weren't stringing hits together. But we were really able to string them together today.”

After Carr retired the first three batters on just six pitches, Tyler Helmuth sparked the MId-Prairie offense with a leadoff triple in the second inning. He scored the game’s first run on a Brock Harland sacrifice bunt. 

“I just wanted to get on base and hit the ball hard,” said Helmuth, who went 2-for-3 at the plate. “That's been my mindset the whole year you know — barrel the ball, hit the ball hard, and I did exactly that. I’m not going to lie, I thought it might have been a pop out, and then everybody started screaming and I just kept running. It was great”

An injury forced sophomore Karson Grout into the DH role on Tuesday, and moved Helmuth to the outfield for the first time this season. All eyes were on Helmuth with two outs in the bottom of the seventh as the ball traveled into right field with the tying run leaving second base. 

“I got it done,” he said. “The ball was right in the sun and that had me a little nervous, but I had to stay confident and sure enough, did it.”

Miller helped his own cause in the second inning with an RBI single that scored Dylan Henry. 

Cain Brown singled, stole second base, and scored on Alex Bean’s single in third. 

“We’re just looking for our pitch, and hitting it hard, hitting it low, letting our bats do the work and then letting them mess up if it happens,” Bean said. 

Cascade cut into the 3-0 lead in the sixth after putting the first two runners on base with a walk and a single. A wild pitch and a sacrifice fly trimmed the lead to just a single run. 

Brown took over on the mound after the leadoff runner reached base in the seventh. A perfect bunt put the winning run on first base with no outs, but Brown sent the runner back to the dugout with a successful pick off at first. 

It was a risky play with the vast amount of foul territory behind first base at Merchants Park. An errant throw could have tied the game and put the winning run into scoring position. 

“You’ve got to be careful with this,” Mullet told Brown about the pick off. “It’s got to go our way, this play has to go our way.”

The first attempt just missed, but the Golden Hawks went back to it a few pitches later. 

“Thankfully for us, we got it,” Brown said. “I made a pretty good throw and Bean made a great tag, so that worked in our favor.”

Brown stranded the runner at second and Mid-Prairie reached the state semifinals for the fifth time in school history. 

Mid-Prairie, who finished fourth in the RVC South, is one of the last four teams alive in class 2A

“We have our approach — what we're doing as a team,” Mullet said. “It doesn't necessarily matter who's on the other side… we're focusing on us, 

“We knew going into it that when we're firing on all cylinders, we could beat anybody. We're playing good baseball and that was our goal this season — to work out the knick knacks during the year and be able to play our best baseball this time of year.”

Miller pitched around five hits and four walks to allow just two runs over six innings. 

“He competes,” Mullet said. “You’ve got to have confidence in yourself. You’ve got to trust in yourself and your defense and your hitters to produce the runs and that's what Collin did.” 

Brown, Bean, Helmuth and Henry each had two hits for the Golden Hawks in the win. 

On Thursday at 4:30 p.m., Mid-Prairie will face No. 2 Estherville Lincoln Central, who was a 5-1 winner over Interstate 35 in the first quarterfinal. 

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