116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Myles Butkowski is back.
The Cedar Rapids Xavier senior endured a severe injury after colliding with teammate Alex Neal during practice that threatened his season.
In a whirlwind of a week, Butkowski was cleared for full practice, cleared to compete and returned to the Saints lineup Tuesday against Dubuque Senior at Mount Mercy. He went 2-for-3 and scored in his return, helping Xavier to a 3-0 win in the opener and a doubleheader split.
“It felt great,” Butkowski said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to get back or not. The goal was always to try, whether it be just (designated hitting). I feel great right now. I’m looking forward to games.”
The comeback was a little more than a month from the on-field accident. During live batting practice, the two pursued a popup and ran into each other. The force was so strong Butkowski’s teeth marks were embedded in Neal’s shoulder.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve seen in coaching in terms of first-hand injury,” Xavier Coach Dan Halter said. “For all of us.”
Butkowski was knocked out and was rushed to the hospital. He suffered a broken maxilla bone and multiple displaced teeth, forcing him to undergo two surgeries that same night and another the next day.
“Basically, it’s been healing these last couple weeks and getting the swelling down,” said Butkowski, who praised the work of Xavier trainers and University of Iowa Sports Medicine staff. “Fortunately, I healed faster than I was expected.
“Being knocked out, I had a concussion as well. I had to go through return to play protocol and that all went smoothly.”
Halter explained the roller coaster of emotion everyone experienced. Optimism prevailed following the surgery, but that quickly faded as the prognosis seemed to eliminate a return. Recovery, appointments and further tests went extremely well and Butkowski was able to salvage part of his final campaign.
“We all felt terrible for him and everybody,” Halter said. “It was like a done deal and he wasn’t able to get back and get cleared. We said we still want you to be around it, part of it and come to practice. That was the plan and then great things happen sometimes.
“He just kept checking off boxes to where we were able to start with some light physical activity and build up from there.”
The thought of not getting to play was devastating. Butkowski continued to try to help the team. He supported teammates from the bench. He tried to help mentor the younger catcher filling his spot.
“When I was told I wouldn’t be able to play, it was heartbreaking,” Butkowski said. “I’ve always loved the sport of baseball. It’s been a big part of my family. My father played into college and (further) a little bit.
“I was doing everything I could to get out there and contribute in some way.”
Players can be hesitant after a traumatic experience or injury. Halter said Butkowski jumped right in, hitting the ball up the middle like he has in the past. Butkowski does wear a custom-fitted mouthpiece.
“I felt comfortable,” Butkowski said. “I was ready to go. I enjoyed sitting on the sideline, but eventually it got boring sitting there and not being in there. It was fun to be back out there.”
Halter said Butkowski provides an instant boost to the lineup and the team morale.
“He has a great approach of the game,” Halter said. “He’s a team guy and selfless. He really brings energy. We’re thrilled to get him back.
“I think he has appreciation for everything, too. You’ve got to attack and not take anything for granted.”
Sawyer Nauman tops in total bases
Western Dubuque’s Sawyer Nauman leads the state with 60 total bases. The senior first baseman has produced a monster start to the season, hitting a Class 4A-best .617 with a .710 on-base percentage.
Nauman has 29 hits, including 13 doubles and six home runs (tied for second in all classes). He is tied for the state lead with 38 RBIs. Nauman’s 1.277 slugging percentage is second in the state and first in 4A.
“Sawyer is the model athlete at Western Dubuque,” Bobcats Coach Casey Bryant said. “He is a four-sport guy who has tremendous talent in baseball.”
Maquoketa sweeps No. 6 Independence
Maquoketa moved 8-6 this season, sweeping Class 3A sixth-ranked Independence Monday. The Cardinals traveled to Independence and left with 8-3 and 3-0 victories.
In the opener, Kannon Coakley had two hits with a double, Mitchell Roeder drove in two runs and Kaleb Whaley scored twice to lead the Cardinals.
Senior Peyton Mangler provided a complete game two-hit shutout for Maquoketa. Mangler struck out nine without a walk, facing just two above the minimum on 85 pitches. He improved to 3-1, averaging more than a strikeout an inning.
Mangler and Coakley had two hits and an RBI apiece in Game 2.