The message arrived hours before Mid-Prairie’s baseball team played for a substate championship and a state tournament berth last week in Solon.
Kyle Mullet, the Golden Hawks head coach and a former Golden Hawk player himself, told the team just how important its game against West Marshall was.
You know, just in case the Golden Hawks hadn’t quite figured it out.
Before the team took batting practice, senior outfielder Will Cavanagh said, Mullet gathered the Golden Hawks together and told them exactly what the night meant.
“This game, he wanted to win more than any other game in his life,” Cavanagh said.
That kind of talk spoke loudly, long before junior pitcher/outfielder Collin Miller caught the final out against an outfield fence to jump start a Mid-Prairie celebration.
“We took that really to heart and I think kind of motivated us,” Cavanagh said.
A few hours later, following a gutsy relief pitching performance by Miller that featured 12 strikeouts and that final out in the outfield after Miller was replaced, the Golden Hawks raced onto the field and dove on top of each other to celebrate.
They chased Mullet into the outfield, championship banner in hand, to give him a Gatorade and water dunking.
It was exactly the kind of night Mullet had dreamed of since he became the team’s head coach in 2021 following a stint as assistant coach, and before that, as a Golden Hawk player.
This is the kind of night he wants every year.
“Ever since I started coaching, the big thing for me is bring back Mid-Prairie baseball,” Mullet said. “I want Mid-Prairie baseball to be a known program, a winning program. We’re about building character and building young men first before these championships, state tournaments, things like that. If we can do that, these things will start to happen for us.”
The Golden Hawks have won conference and district championships both years under Mullet’s direction, and Tuesday they defeated Cascade in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament. But in the last three years, their only loss in the substate was last year against Davis County in a game that included two Mid-Prairie errors, baserunning mistakes and multiple wild pitches.
“Biggest thing from last year, we lose that substate game, we get upset,” Mullet said. “We graduated six or seven seniors last year, it was kind of a rebuilding year for us. But those guys that were there learned from that. I learned from that as a first-year coach 100 percent. I think the biggest thing with our success the last week has been our preparation. I wanted to be better preparing for these games going into substate during the district tournament.”
The Golden Hawks have been prepared all summer and were ranked among the top 10 in Class 2A for part of the season. The errors that the Golden Hawks made last year have disappeared. Their 39 errors this season rank sixth best in the state. They play clean baseball, which makes them a title contender at this week’s state tournament in Carroll.
“Clean baseball helped us a lot,” said Miller, the winning pitcher in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory against Cascade. “Not a lot of errors. We’re one of the top teams in the state for fewest errors. That just really helps with having no errors. Be comfortable up on the mound knowing the guys got your back out on the field.”
And Miller had their back on the pitching mound against West Marshall. Twice, he struck the side out, including one inning when the Trojans loaded the bases with none out.
Mid-Prairie’s players danced out of the dugout, shouting, when Miller struck out a third consecutive Trojan in that inning.
“I was so excited,” Miller said.
That’s the Mid-Prairie baseball Mullet wants to see. Every game. Every year. It is absolutely personal.
“I graduated in 2012, played with Mid-Prairie,” he said. “When I was there, we came off a very good era of Mid-Prairie baseball. … Ever since I’ve been back, that’s what I want to continue.”
Cavanagh is one of the Golden Hawks who has reached the postseason in four sports this year: football, basketball, track and baseball, all of them with winning records and determined coaches (one of them is his dad, football head coach Pete Cavanagh). And he’ll tell you, Mullet is no different.
“He’s the type of guy that he’s not going to let you go through the motions. He’s not going to. He’s going to be on you, and it’s only for the better of us,” Will Cavanagh said. “It makes us better people, makes us better baseball players, makes us better men, sons, students, everything.”
And now, for the second time in three years, the Golden Hawks headed to the state tournament this week in Carroll instead of Principal Park in Des Moines, where they experienced a quick exit in 2020.
One of the happiest guys on the team bus is sure to be Mullet.
“Andy (Greiner, 2020 head coach) did an excellent job his last year there and got us back to that state tournament, and I want to keep it going,” Mullet said with a big smile. “I want to be in Carroll, Iowa, every summer.”
News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here