Burkle serves as a leader for Prairie pitching staff

5 days ago
Cedar Rapids Prairie's Reid Burkle (11) pitches against Iowa City High during the first game of a doubleheader at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Cliff Jette/Freelance)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Reid Burkle balances fun and fierce.

Prairie - Figure 1
Photo The Gazette

The self-described “goofball” is also a gamer, especially on the mound.

“We’re competing but we’re going to have fun with it,” Burkle said. “It’s a fun environment and a competitive atmosphere. That’s how we look at it. I think it helps.”

Burkle got down to business, throwing 6 1/3 innings and earning the win in the Class 4A No. 8 Hawks’ 4-3 victory over No. 3 Iowa City High in the opener of the Mississippi Valley Conference baseball doubleheader Tuesday night at Prairie. Three Little Hawk pitchers combined for a no-hitter, helping earn a split with a 4-2 win in the nightcap.

Burkle has played Legion ball this spring but was pleased with his first start of the varsity season. He held City High scoreless through six, allowing five hits (two came in the seventh inning) and striking out seven.

“I had the off-speed working,” Burkle said. “I felt pretty good overall. It’s a big challenge. One through nine, they have real good hitters. It’s exciting and good to come out, compete and come out on top.”

Prairie has big shoes to fill with the graduation of all-stater Maddux Frese, who served as the Hawks’ No. 1 starter a year ago. Hawks Coach James Nelson said Burkle is capable of filling that role.

“He’s pretty dynamic,” Nelson said. “He’s as good as you’re going to see in the state of Iowa with what he brings to the table.

“City High is obviously a good hitting team and he made some of those guys look a little below that.”

Prairie has a deep pitching staff that includes Kam Volz, Logan Wagemester and Jordan Woodhouse. Burkle was quick to mention they all share that No. 1 moniker. They push each other to pitch their best.

Prairie - Figure 2
Photo The Gazette

“We’re very balanced,” Burkle said. “It’s good. We know we’re all going to throw well. We’re going to throw strikes, get our outs and everything. You have to match it because that’s what should happen. It’s good for us.”

Burkle stymied the Little Hawks at various times, causing them to strand seven runners. He pitched out of jams, leaving runners in scoring position five times.

“Nothing is going to faze him,” said Nelson, noting Burkle has experience in key moments in other sports as well. “He’s going to battle, no matter who it is.”

Burkle hits mid-to-high 80s on the radar gun. Nelson said Burkle mixes pitches with a deceptive delivery that makes it tough on batters. Burkle said he’s learned how to utilize his defense, even if it’s a young group this year.

“Pitch to contact,” Burkle said. “Sometimes I have to slow down and tell myself I have fielders behind me and I don’t need to do everything myself.”

The Hawks (2-2) received two runs from Kamren Francois, who led off the game with a hit, moved to second on a Maddux Mueller single and stole third, scoring on an errant throw. Francois walked and scored on a wild pitch in the third.

Mueller, who had three hits in Game 1, singled and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth. Collin McClintock was hit by a pitch and scored the decisive run when Shraden Lechtenberg reached on an error.

City High rallied with a walk and a couple singles in the seventh, chasing Burkle from the game with two outs left. Dominic Salibi had a two-run double and Drake Obermueller added an RBI groundout, but Prairie’s Tyler Schamberger struck out the final batter for the save.

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In Game 2, City High’s Jaxton Schroeder, Nicholas Meredith and Owen Hicks combined for a no-hitter, despite allowing two runs and 13 baserunners. Schroeder went five innings in the start and earned the win. Hicks earned the save.

Hicks also had a key two-run, two-out triple in the sixth inning for the game-winning RBI.

Jake Mitchell and Salibi had three total hits in the doubleheader to lead City High (2-1).

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