116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — For six innings, Bondurant-Farrar looked like the team that had been battle-tested.
The Bluejays had solid at-bats, timely hits and an air-tight defense in building a 5-2 lead over a tradition-rich Cedar Rapids Xavier squad in Monday’s night's Class 3A Substate 5 semifinal game at the Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex on the Mount Mercy University campus.
Then came a fateful bottom of the seventh for the visitors. Two walks, a single, two errors and a hit-by-pitch set the stage for a three-run rally, capped off by a sacrifice fly from Xavier's Brody Hoffman to tie the game at 5-5.
The Saints wasted little time in extra innings, grabbing a 6-5 win on a walk-off single from junior Alex Neal, bringing home Jaxon Rexroth with the game-winner.
Coach Dan Halter's Saints (25-12), seeded second, advance on to Wednesday's 7 p.m. substate final at Solon. The No. 1-seeded Spartans advanced with an 11-1 win over Carlisle
Bondurant-Farrar closes its season at 14-15.
The Saints had their chances in the first six innings, putting runners on in every inning.
"Hey, we just had to stay tough," Neal said. "Everybody was positive throughout and the emotions stayed even and it just came together."
Halter has seen his team pull over many victories during his time as Xavier's coach. He said the message stayed the same after each missed opportunity.
"We kept preaching to them to keep their cool," Halter said. "When you get to the last inning of a game, human nature says that you start pressing a little bit. I think they may have got to them a little bit."
The Bluejays built a 5-0 lead with a four-run outburst in the fourth. Alex Hall had a two-RBI double followed by a two-out single from Nick Barning.
Ironically, the guy who finished it off for Xavier got things going in the fifth. Neal's triple to right scored Jack Lux with the first Xavier run. The Saints added another in the sixth on an RBI double from Griffin Maloney.
After working out of a jam in the top of the seventh, Xavier was able to tie things up and force extra innings.
"The biggest thing we did was to put some pressure on them," Halter said. "If you hit pop-ups and strike out, it makes it easier on a team. If you put the ball on the ground, you force them to make plays and that's what we did."
In the eighth, Rexroth got things going with a one-out double to left. After walks to Myles Butkowski and Lux, Neal came to the plate.
"I was just trying to do my job," he said. "We had one out and I knew if I found a hole there, we're scoring a run and we're celebrating."
Neal did just that and the Saints earned a chance to play another day.
"We've got a lot of respect for them," Halter said of Solon. "They've got the No. 1 seed so we'll head down to their place and see what happens."