CEDAR RAPIDS - For four innings, the Marshalltown baseball team had Class 4A No. 6 Cedar Rapids Prairie on the ropes.
The hometown Hawks were down 3-2 and had just two hits through the first four frames but a six-run, seven-hit fifth pushed Prairie in front and the state-ranked Hawks never looked back in a 9-7 win over the Bobcats during the Substate 3 semifinal on Tuesday.
"This was a real tough one to lose," MHS coach Steve Hanson said. "We just had a bad inning when they did everything right. Six-run innings usually get you beat.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
MHS senior Hunter Hillygus, left, can’t hold back his emotions alongside fellow senior Jacoby Jay after the Bobcats’ suffered a season-ending 9-7 loss to No. 6 Cedar Rapids Prairie on Tuesday night. The game was a continuation of Monday night’s lightning-suspended substate semifinal.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
"I was just shocked we gave up nine. I thought we had a pretty good plan. We left some guys on, too, but that's baseball."
The game was completed Tuesday after lightning Monday suspended the contest with the Hawks batting in the bottom of the third with two outs.
Colton Hanke returned to the hill and got through four innings with the lead, but Prairie got the bats going in the fifth. The Hawks sent 12 batters to the plate, strung together six consecutive hits and pushed ahead for good with six runs. The big hits were Tyler Butz's two-run double, Tyler Votroubek's RBI double as well as Kaleb Davison and Corbin Day's run-scoring singles.
"Our guys feed off each other," said Cedar Rapids Prairie coach Matt Thede, a Gladbrook-Reinbeck graduate. "We wanted to get to the bullpen. Hanke kept us off balance and shut us down early. We were fine once we got to the pen. We got the hits, and the key hits when we needed them."
Hanke left the game in the fifth inning after three straight singles loaded the bases for Prairie (27-12). Hanson replaced Hanke with senior Tyler Moranville, but he lasted just three hitters after three straight hits produced four runs. Dylan Diveney allowed a walk and an RBI single but eventually got the Bobcats out of the inning with an 8-3 deficit.
"Moranville did nothing but throw strikes and (Prairie) just hit the ball," Hanson said. "We knew they would put the ball in play against someone who throws strikes and they just found gaps.
"Colton Hanke did a good job last night and tonight. It takes a pretty special guy to strap it on and come back the next night after sitting around for 24 hours. He was very willing to take the ball. He surpassed our expectations."
The Bobcats didn't quit after losing the lead. They bounced back to score two runs in the sixth inning. Michael Schrempf doubled to put two runners in scoring position with just one out. Diveney's RBI groundout made it 8-4 and a Prairie error pushed the Bobcat deficit to 8-5.
Thede pulled Brennan Hammer with two outs in the sixth and Spencer Dean got Grant Thimesch on one pitch to end the threat.
The Bobcats stranded eight runners on base in the game.
"We had our chances, and that is the stuff you remember," Hanson said. "You think back at the losses like this more than you think about the wins. But there is always some fight left in this team. I couldn't be more proud of the way we played. It certainly wasn't for a lack of effort."
Prairie made things a little tougher for a Marshalltown comeback in the bottom of the sixth when it plated an insurance run. Butz walked with out and then scored on Trey Beckman RBI single against MHS senior Ryan Mitchell.
Hunter Hillygus doubled to start the Bobcat seventh and then scored on Blake Judkins' RBI double. McCarville's single put two in scoring position with nobody out, but Dean retired three straight to record his fourth save. Hanke plated a final run with his ground out to first but it wasn't enough to keep the rally alive.
"It was always when we take the lead and never if for me," Thede said. "We are constantly believing that we would take the lead. These guys now believe they are going to win games. We are starting to turn things around as a program, and the guys believe in our philosophy.
"I just wanted us to put our best effort on the field and we did that."
Hammer (7-2) earned the win for the Hawks after starting on the mound to begin the fourth inning Tuesday. Adams pitched the first three innings Monday and gave up three runs. Hammer allowed one earned run in the sixth and Dean gave up two earned runs in the seventh.
"Marshalltown did a good job of hitting the fast ball," Thede said. "If Mitchell Adams pitches against any other team, I think he finds more success. We decided to make a move because there is no tomorrow if we lose."
Thede said Hammer - and two other pitchers - will throw in today's substate championship game against No. 10 Cedar Rapids Xavier (24-15). But his key to advancing to the state tournament is at the plate.
Prairie will play at Xavier tonight at 7 p.m. They split their two regular season games.
Marshalltown ends its season at 17-25. The Bobcats said goodbye to six seniors - Judkins, Mitchell, Hillygus, Moranville, Connor Ruddick and Jacoby Jay - after the loss.
"That is the worst part. We know we won't see those guys on the field competitively again," Hanson said. "We had six tremendous guys. They were willing to do whatever it took to help the team. They were punctual, disciplined and did everything right. They will be sorely missed."
Hillygus and Judkins each had two hits, two runs and an RBI in their final game in Marshalltown. Hillygus tripled in a run Monday and then doubled Tuesday. McCarville also had two hits in the loss, while Schrempf, Hanke and Diveney added RBIs.
Votroubek and Beckman had two hits to lead Prairie. Votroubek and Butz both drove in two while Tyler Mougin and Butz scored twice.
Hanson said after the game that he may return to the team as head coach next year instead of retiring. The decision has not yet been made, and Hanson added that he will sit down with new MHS athletic director Craig Huegel and make a decision before next season. Thede said he grew up around Marshalltown and knew of Hanson as a young baseball player at Gladbrook-Reinbeck. "I have a lot of respect for his program. He always gets the most out of his kids." Thede is in his fourth year as Prairie head coach. This year's Hawks set a new school record with 27 wins.