Milks carves niche with Prairie

Senior lefty thrives in relief role; Postseason assignments; Stumpff gets 600th win

Published: June 19 2014 | 1:38 pm
in Basketball, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Dyersville Beckman, Iowa City West, Iowa Prep Sports, Jesup, Lisbon, Mount Vernon, North Tama, Postville, Sports,

CEDAR RAPIDS — Ben Milks has carved his niche with the Cedar Rapids Prairie baseball team.

The senior left-hander has thrived as a reliever, which is a role he expects to continue next year for the Kirkwood Eagles.

Milks has thrown 20 innings in nine games this season and has a 2.10 earned-run average, providing a highlight for a Prairie team that has struggled recently.

Prairie Coach Matt Thede called on him more than twice as much as any other pitcher in 2013. The contributions have come on the mound, at the plate and off the field, according to Thede.

“Ben has been one of those guys who has been really tough out of the (bull) pen,” Thede said. “His senior leadership has been great.”

Milks enjoys his role, trying to shut the door on batters after the starter goes as long as possible.

“I like it,” Milks said. “I can come in and shut just about anybody down.”

Last season, Milks averaged less than 1 2/3 innings per appearances. He has extended his performances to almost 2 1/3 this year. He has more strikeouts than innings pitched, allowing 17 hits and walking eight. He has been impressive since starting the season opener against Cedar Rapids Xavier, surrendering five runs on two hits and three walks. He owns a 1.25 WHIP (Walks and hits to innings pitched) ratio, which has pleased Thede.

“We knew he was going back to the bullpen,” Thede said. “He’s just been dominant because he comes in after somebody and mops up.”

Being a relief pitcher takes mental toughness and a specific approach. He has a slight chip on his throwing shoulder.

“When I come in I know I have to shut a team down, or that is what Coach Thede wants me to do,” said Milks, who admired a family friend who pitched for the Florida Marlins, former Twins pitchers Brad Radke and John Santana and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who threw a no-hitter Wednesday night. “I should do it every time.”

Thede said Milks has command of three pitches. He has a decent fastball that is complemented by an effective change-up and a big, sweeping curveball. Milks’ unorthodox pitching motion causes problems for batters as well. Thede realized not to mess with it when he watched what it produced.

“He’s got a funky delivery,” Thede said. “He kind of comes down with his hands. It looks really weird, but he gets great movement.”

Milks said a highlight to the season was a doubleheader sweep over the Class 3A ninth-ranked Saints on June 6. He threw five scoreless innings of relief, getting the win and allowing just two hits. It soothed the sting of some previous losses.

“After the last game of last year and then the first game this year, it left a sour taste in our mouths,” Milks said about losses to Xavier. “The way we played against them, that was kind of a ‘yes’ moment for us this year.”

Postseason assignments

The Iowa High School Athletic Association has released district assignments for Classes 1A and 2A.

Mount Vernon and Dyersville Beckman will host 2A district tournaments. The seventh-ranked Mustangs welcome Alburnett, No. 9 Iowa City Regina, Mid-Prairie, West Branch and West Liberty. The winner advances to a substate final at Solon.

“There are some pretty competitive teams that have been there before,” Mount Vernon head coach Jeremy Elliott said. “West Branch made it to the state tournament a couple years ago. Alburnett has got a good team this year. Regina is pretty top-notch program year-in and year-out, too.”

Top-ranked Beckman hosts Bellevue, Cascade, Clayton Ridge/Central, MFL MarMac and Monticello. The district champion will play its substate final at Linn-Mar.

In Class 1A, BGM and North Tama will co-host a district with Belle Plaine, GMG, Colo-NESCO, HLV, Iowa Valley and Meskwaki Settlement. The No. 9 Bears will host the district final, while North Tama will hold the substate game.

Jesup and North Linn will team to host Cedar Valley Christian, Central City, Don Bosco, East Buchanan, Edgewood-Colesburg and Maquoketa Valley. Jesup will host the district final.

Lisbon and Calamus-Wheatland will host Easton Valley, Highland, Lone Tree, Bellevue Marquette, Midland, Prince of Peace and Springville. The Lions will hold the district final with the substate at Washington (Iowa).

Lansing Kee, Starmont, Turkey Valley and Wapsie Valley are among teams at a district co-hosted by Denver and Postville.

Stumpff passes 600 wins

Iowa City West Coach Charlie Stumpff has surpassed 600 career wins.

The Trojans are 11-7 overall this season, giving their head coach a 602-359 overall mark. The 600th victory came in the first game of a doubleheader sweep over Prairie on Monday.

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