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Tuesday, May 31, 2016
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Metro Sports Report

Prairie claims 1st Metro baseball title

When Todd Rima became the new baseball coach at Cedar Rapids Prairie last year, he gave all of his players a picture of Principal Park in Des Moines and told them to set their sights on winning a state title there.

"We asked them to hang it up in their room and make sure it was something they wanted to work towards," Rima said Wednesday night. "I think they looked at me at first like, 'Is this guy crazy?' But I think they bought in. I think they have a confidence about them now that leads to success."

That confidence was on full display Wednesday as the Hawks claimed their first Metro title in school history with a 5-0 whitewash of fifth-ranked Kennedy at the Jefferson field.

The Hawks enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2015, winning 31 games and capturing the first Mississippi Valley Conference in school annals. Now they've followed last year's success with their first trophy in the 47th Bob Vrbicek Metro tournament.

"We felt with the kids that we had and how they wanted to work and how they wanted to be successful that we could have a lot of success," said Rima. "It's all because they've bought in to playing hard. They've done a tremendous job."

Junior Darren Kilpatrick tossed a four-hit shutout in his first varsity appearance as Prairie whipped its second ranked club in three days. The Hawks trimmed No. 3 Jefferson in the opening round, clobbered Washington in the semifinals and tamed Kennedy in the championship round, allowing just two runs in three games.

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Prairie sending message in Metro tourney

The Prairie Hawks won 31 games last season and captured the first Mississippi Valley Conference baseball title in school history, yet they were completely snubbed in the preseason rankings this year despite have a veteran club.

Their first two opponents this year have paid the price.

Prairie smacked the Washington Warriors, 15-0, in four innings Tuesday night in the semifinals of the Metro baseball tournament for their second impressive victory in two days.

The Hawks began the year Monday night with a 3-2 victory over the third-ranked Jefferson J-Hawks. Now they'll get a shot at fifth-ranked Kennedy in the tournament finals Wednesday night at Jefferson.

"I think our guys know that we got zero votes, so we told them you spell respect W-I-N," Prairie Coach Todd Rima said after the Hawks overwhelmed Washington. "That's what we'll do and we'll let people decide the rankings."

The Hawks are not obsessed with the rankings, but they certainly noticed that not a single coach who votes in the IHSBCA poll thought they deserved a spot in the top 10.

"It motivated us," said third baseman Cooper Reittinger. "We didn't feel like we got the respect we deserved. So we came out and we've tried to earn some votes here. That's what really drove us these couple of games."

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Leonard powers Warriors by Saints

Trey Leonard has spent most of the spring with the Cedar Rapids Washington track team and helped the Warriors finish second in the 4x100 relay at the state meet on Saturday, so he rarely practiced with the baseball squad prior to the start of the season with the Metro Tournament on Monday.

The lack of practice did not hurt him a bit.

Leonard came out swinging Monday and went 5-for-5 with a three-run homer and five RBIs as the Warriors smacked the undermanned Xavier Saints, 15-6, in the quarterfinals at the Jefferson field.

Leonard scored four runs, smacked two balls off the outfield fence and had two stolen bases in his virtuoso performance. He saw the ball well and hit it hard all day.

"It looked like a beachball," he said. "It was a good hitting day. The swing felt good and obviously it showed with where the ball went."

Prairie trimmed Spencer VanScoyoc and the third-ranked Jefferson J-Hawks, 3-2, in the second game Monday night at Jefferson. Kennedy beat Linn-Mar, 13-5, and Mount Vernon edged Marion, 3-1, in the first-round games at Mount Vernon.

The tournament continues Tuesday at both sites. Xavier and Jefferson are scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. at Jefferson, with Washington and Prairie meeting in the winner's bracket at 7 p.m.

Linn-Mar faces Marion at 5 p.m. at Mount Vernon, with Kennedy meeting Mount Vernon in the winner's bracket at 7 p.m.

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Filer named Xavier volleyball coach

Xavier High School has hired Austin Filer as its new varsity volleyball coach.

Filer brings a variety of volleyball coaching and leadership experience to the Xavier program, having served most recently as a head coach/sand coordinator at Cedar Rapids' Adrenaline Volleyball Academy (2014-present) and as an assistant volleyball coach at Mount Mercy University (2012-2015).

At Adrenaline, Filer qualified three teams for beach nationals and led his team to a national ranking. During his time at Mount Mercy, Filer played a major role on head coach Deb Marlin's staff in helping to turn the program around as the Mustangs qualified for the National Tournament for the first time in program history in the 2015 season.

"We are excited to bring in a coach of Austin’s caliber," said Tom Keating, Xavier High School principal. "He has a wealth of knowledge and experience and we look forward to the energy and competitive level he will bring to our program."

"I want to thank Activities Director Mike Winker and Principal Tom Keating for this amazing opportunity and the tremendous faith that they have shown in me leading this program," said Filer. "Xavier High School has a tradition of academic and athletic excellence in the Midwest that is second to none.

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Price is right for Xavier softball

Nikki Price must have an abundance of energy and patience.

She's the proud mother of an active 10-month-old baby boy, she teaches sixth and seventh graders at Oak Ridge Middle School and she coaches high school girls on the Xavier softball team.

That's a busy day for anyone.

Price welcomed her son, Braxton Michael, into the new world last July, just a few days after the Saints finished the 2015 season with a 24-16 record.

"We've been blessed," Price said before practice Wednesday. "He's super-fun and happy and crawling and talking and on the move all the time.

"He's a fun little guy and loves being outside, so he'll enjoy the summer, that's for sure. I'm ready for him to start sleeping through the night, but it's been good so far."

Price, entering her fourth official season as head coach, expects to enjoy the spring and summer with the Saints, despite the loss of Erin Drahozal and Morgan Breitbach to graduation. Drahozal hit .402 with nine homers and 32 RBIs and compiled a 9-7 record and 1.68 ERA as a pitcher, while Breitbach hit .358 and patrolled center field like a sponge.

"The energy level has been good, the workouts have been good," said Price. "They're working hard and getting better every day."

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