Senior leadership, sacrifice propels team

The Mid-Prairie seniors pose with the state-qualifier banner after Wednesday’s 9-7 win over Central Lee sent the Golden Hawks to the state tournament. (Doug Brenneman/Union)
The Mid-Prairie seniors pose with the state-qualifier banner after Wednesday’s 9-7 win over Central Lee sent the Golden Hawks to the state tournament. (Doug Brenneman/Union)

WELLMAN — The word sacrifice is used a lot in sports. It is used especially in baseball.

A player often commits an out so that a teammate can advance a base or even score. That is a sacrifice and the out does not count against the player’s average. A sacrifice is so important, it is an official stat.

But there are some unofficial sacrifices in baseball that help a team in other ways.

The Mid-Prairie roster has seven seniors and all have contributed in their own ways.

Brad Tornow, Monte Slabaugh and Chris Miller have seen significant time on game days, but it is the behind the scenes work from Brayden Gingerich, Colten Hobbs, Abe Bender and Brody Miller that has helped make this year’s team great, one of eight remaining teams in Class 2A that will start the state tournament today at Principal Park in Des Moines.

Mid-Prairie is lucky enough to have senior leadership that has sacrificed for the good of the team.

There is a whole range of distinct people and separate personalities on the Golden Hawks and among their seniors.

“They really are a lot of different individuals,” head coach Andy Greiner said. “That makes it so cool when they all work together. To see them talk and feed off each other is a great thing.”

Brody Miller is one of the team captains, but has played in just eight of the games this season.

“He is a guy that would start for a lot of versions of Mid-Prairie teams,” Greiner said. “He would start for a lot of the competition in our league.”

Miller is consistent and is a main leader for the Hawks.

“He has a great attitude and other kids listen to him,” Greiner said. “He has some insight, so that the coaches can use him for a sounding board. He is a good communicator.”

He was voted by his teammates as captain. His primary position is first base, but Mid-Prairie has one of the better hitting first basemans in the state, so “he kind of gets the shaft in that way, but he takes it in stride and he’s enjoying his senior year,” Greiner said. “We’re happy that he gets to end that at Principal Park.”

Bender decided to come out after a few years off. He wanted a chance to finish his senior year the right way and the coaches encouraged that.

“He does not get much playing time but he has a positive influence in the dugout and we are super happy to have him here with us,” Greiner said.

Gingerich is a five-year player, who practices extremely hard and does a really good job. He would start on a lot of versions of Mid-Prairie teams, according to Greiner.

“He is down a little bit in the rotation, so we have not seen him as much in this year with the Covid. That is unfortunate because has done everything we ask.”

The coaching staff is “super proud” of the way Gingerich has handled himself this season.

“He deserves more time than he has gotten and that is a regret of mine,” Greiner said. “We expect him to get some at bats at state because he has been hitting it great at practice the last two weeks.”

He is one of the first guys off the bench for the Hawks. Being a senior, “He really deserves it. I just can’t say enough good things about him,” Greiner said.

Hobbs is the utility man, a vital position on any team.

“We like his development,” Greiner said. “He’s gotten better every single year.”

He comes in at second base when Kayden Reinier pitches and at shortstop when Keegan Gingerich pitches. He’s a middle infielder with good feet and hands.

“He’s the quiet, silent type, but I have enjoyed watching him develop and it’s great to have him finish career at Principal Park,” Greiner said. “That makes us happy.”

Tornow has been the team leader for a while. He leads by example. To have the hardest worker and a great student as a team leader sets a tone that permeates the whole program.

“He takes on a lot of that responsibility and I think the team follows his lead,” Greiner said.

Chris Miller is a “phenomenal” outfielder and has developed into a good hitter. “I am really proud of the way he has developed in his time here,” Greiner said. “I think he’s one of the better outfielders in this conference.”

Then there is the “rock” in Slabaugh who is a solid defensive player, solid offensive player and a good pitcher.

“He is not overly outstanding in any one area but he is so consistent that we know what we are going to get when we put him out there,” Greiner said. “He delivers what we expect. That makes it easier on us coaches.”

The seniors have made it easier for the team as a whole to succeed.

“They are fun and that is what I am going to miss most,” Greiner said. “There are all these personalities and they clash and give each other a hard time and their angles are all a little different, but they get the job done, so that makes it pretty cool.”