Mid-Prairie falls 7-4 to No. 2 ELC in semifinal

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Mid-Prairie’s postseason run came to an end on Thursday with a 7-4 loss to No. 2 Estherville Lincoln Central (33-2) in the 2A state semifinals. 

A couple of injuries left the Golden Hawks (19-11) short on pitching experience entering the state tournament, but coach Kyle Mullet was happy with the way his team competed in both games at Merchants Park. 

“We battled,” he said after the season-ending loss. “Our guys never gave up any at bats. They battled and had heart tonight.”

Trailing 4-3, Mid-Prairie put a runner in scoring position in the fourth inning and again in the fifth, but couldn’t get the tying hit to drop. In the bottom half of the fifth, ELC added three insurance runs on four hits.

“We did what we needed to do and put the ball in play, and just came up short,” Mullet said. “That's baseball, they had some good bunts their way. We did some things right too, but we didn't hit the ball enough or score enough runs.”

Cain Brown had the big hit for Mid-Prairie with the bases loaded in the second inning. His two-out single made it past the right fielder and cleared the bases, giving the Golden Hawks a 3-0 lead. 

Injuries to the throwing arms of Karson Grout and Alex Bean limited the pitching options for Mid-Prairie on Thursday. Pitch count rules required Collin Miller to rest after throwing 102 pitches on Tuesday. 

Brown, who threw 15 innings in relief this year, was the only Golden Hawk pitcher available on Thursday who had thrown more than a single inning in the prior season. 

Freshman Brady Weber got the start in the state semifinal. He allowed four runs on six hits over three innings, but was able to limit the damage in key situations. 

After the Midgets got on the scoreboard with a two-run single in the second, Weber responded with a strikeout and groundout to strand two runners. 

A two-run homer and a one-out single brought the ELC crowd to life in the third inning, but Weber picked off the runner at first and finished his day with a strikeout. 

“Hats off to him for coming out and performing the way he did,” Mullet said. “It says a lot about his character and the man that he is.

“Our pitchers did well. We made them earn it, you know. They hit the ball, and you can't control that and that's the outcome.”

Will Cavanagh allowed a leadoff walk in the fourth inning, but no more as Brock Harland threw out the runner stealing second to end the inning. 

Brown entered the game with a runner on base in the fifth and pitched the final two innings. He allowed two runs on four hits, which included a pair of bunt singles. 

Brown led the Golden Hawks offensively with two hits and an RBI. 

Cavanagh, a senior center fielder, reached on a fielder's choice and scored during Mid-Prairie's three-run second inning. He singled in the fourth and  again in the seventh,  scoring the final run of the season. Tyler Helmuth, the only other Golden Hawk senior, had a fifth-inning double when Mid-Prairie trailed by just a run. 

“Will Cavanagh and Tyler Helmuth… just phenomenal careers,” Mullet said. “They didn’t give up. We talked about that throughout the season and they just did a tremendous job in the way that they lead by example.”

The Golden Hawks entered the season needing to replace four starters from last year’s team, which included four of the team’s top six hitters, and the top two pitchers in both wins and innings pitched. The young Mid-Prairie squad went 9-8 in conference play and finished the regular season at 15-10 before winning four straight in the postseason, despite the injuries. 

“We wanted to get the championship, but what this team did this year was absolutely remarkable,” Mullet said. “For us to get here with the guys that we did says a lot about our program.”

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