Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1214060

Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 22, 2014

Mid-Prairie defies the critics

By Aaron Viner | Jul 17, 2014
Photo by: Aaron Viner Mid-Prairie’s Taylor Kurtz has pitched a combined 20 innings in the postseason so far for the Hawks, striking out 16 batters.

When the season began for Mid-Prairie softball, there were a lot of people who didn’t know what to expect.
The Golden Hawk softball team graduated seven seniors who had advanced to the state tournament four years in a row, and assumed there might be a letdown after losing many key pieces.
This year’s Mid-Prairie team didn’t listen to any of that, as they made it five straight tournament appearances with a 6-5 win over No. 1 ranked Benton in a regional final on Monday night.
“That made going to state so much sweeter,” Mid-Prairie pitcher Taylor Kurtz said. “So many people were saying, ‘You guys are going to lose first round or third round and not make it to state,’ but we knew we could do it, so now they can watch us and see how far we go.”
As the season went on, some of the expectations started to change, but the upset of Benton surprised a lot of people.
“These girls are really underestimated,” Mid-Prairie head coach Kara Beatty said. “There weren’t a lot of expectations just because of the huge senior class that graduated. People didn’t have low expectations, but didn’t expect them to get this far. They’ve definitely opened some eyes, and beating Benton the way we did, by playing our game really helped.”
In the game against Benton, the only senior on the team came up with the big hit of the night, an RBI single to break the 5-5 tie in the fifth inning.
“You have to have a lot of confidence going into a game like that, so it really doesn’t change much because you don’t want to be overconfident,” Whitney Christiansen said. “It’s nice knowing you had a big hit that helped the team, but the confidence level can’t change too much.”
Despite being the only senior on the team, Christiansen said she doesn’t feel that she is leading the team by herself, but is getting picked up by her teammates.
“It’s hard to lead the team as only yourself, so I’ve gotten help from the juniors, and sophomores have stepped up,” Christiansen said. “It doesn’t even feel like we are different ages, because we get along so well.  We hang out and have fun, but they still respect you and ask for advice.”
Fort Dodge may seem to be familiar ground for the team as they make their fifth annual trip to the tournament, but that doesn’t mean it means less to the girls who made it there.
“It’s still really exciting every time you go,” Amber Kral said. “You get another chance and hopefully we make it further this year than previous years. The main thing our team has been saying all year is to make the nonbelievers into believers.”
Out of the last four years they’ve made the tournament, Mid-Prairie has lost in the first round three times. The one year it won in its first game (2011), they finished in a tie for third place as their game against Bondurant-Farrar was canceled.  
“At this point they know what to expect,” Beatty said. “I think they are disappointed because the last two years we’ve lost that first-round game. Our mentality is to not let down, and win that first game. I don’t know a lot about East Marshall at this point, but not being ranked I kind of knew we might get the lowest seed in the tournament.”
East Marshall poses another tough test for Mid-Prairie, as they have a 32-3 record and haven’t lost a game since June 2. They average nearly nine runs per game while holding a 1.28 ERA.
Oh yeah, and they are ranked No. 2 in the state.
“We just beat the No. 1 team and now as a reward we get to take on the No. 2 team,” Kurtz said. “We just said, ‘OK, bring it on.’”
Mid-Prairie’s game against East Marshall will begin on Monday at 11 a.m. in Fort Dodge.

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