By Travis Hutson
While freezing rain and fog enveloped most of Iowa on January 21st, the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association gave fans a reminder of sunny summer days on the diamond with their annual awards banquet.
The prestigious Coach of The Year title for 4A was awarded to Prairie’s own head coach Todd Rima, who lead the Hawks to a state championship in 2016. The historically good team went 38-6, breaking the school season wins record for the second year in a row.
The team full of hard working talented seniors bought into Rima’s beliefs and prided themselves in playing the game the right way. They only hit 10 home runs throughout the season, but a near .500 on base percentage combined with 157 stolen bases put runners in scoring position, resulting in runs.
This, plus a ridiculously good defense that produced a pro-level fielding percentage of .974, resulted in a celebratory dog-pile under the lights of Principal Park.
The Hawks fell behind in the opening innings of the championship game against Iowa City West, but overcame the deficit and pulled away late, beating the Trojans 12-3.
Rima and the Hawks are looking to build on the successes of last year, despite losing at least 7 starters.
“We lost a lot of good players last year but we expect to do some good things again this year. We’ve lead the state in stolen bases the past 2 years, and have some young pitchers that can be dominant, so we hope to continue doing the little things right.” Said Darren Kilpatrick ‘17, a key pitcher for the Hawks last year, and likely the team ace in 2017.
The little things are exactly what separates Rima from other coaches. While every coach preaches this philosophy, Rima finds a way to wire it into his players brains. They live and breath his words, rallying around him and his ideals. After losing in the final substate game in 2015, his motto for the 2016 season was “Finish”. He printed it on t-shirts and banners, pounding it into his players heads everyday at practice. He and his team of undersized fighters refused to accept anything but winning, and that’s exactly what they did. Possibly an even bigger challenge for a much younger team is up ahead, but if anyone can overcome such inexperience, it’s Coach of the Year himself, Todd Rima.
(Photo by Cedar Rapids Gazette)