116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Drew Proskovec said his arm didn’t feel good.
Chalk it up to the normal wear of the season that everyone deals with in the final stretch of the season.
The Cedar Rapids Xavier left-hander and University of Iowa commit wasn’t going to let that stop him from answering the call for his team.
“It was one of those days,” Proskovec said. “You don’t always have your good stuff. You’ve got to find a way to make it happen. Find a way to get the win.
“I want to do it all for these guys. I couldn’t ask for a better group.”
Proskovec wasn’t just serviceable. He was downright dominant, throwing a complete-game, three-hit shutout in the fifth-ranked Saints’ 8-0 victory over No. 10 North Polk in a Class 3A substate baseball semifinal Monday night at Ken Charipar Field.
“When we pitch like that, it makes everything else pretty easy,” Xavier Coach Dan Halter said. “We played good defense, too. It was a good team win.”
Xavier (28-11) will host a substate final Wednesday against No. 9 Independence, which advanced with a 3-2 walk-off win over Ballard. The Saints have posted two straight postseason shutouts, outscoring teams 18-0 in 12 innings.
“We’re playing really confident,” Halter said. “For us, a lot of times, it comes down to playing to win. It sounds cliché and simple but when we’re playing unafraid of making mistakes we’re really good.”
Proskovec (7-1) made few mistakes against the Comets (17-9). He started strong, retiring the first 11 batters before Brayden Foster legged out an infield single for North Polk’s first base runner.
Overall, Proskovec allowed just five total batters to reach base, including only one inning with more than one and just one that advanced to third base.
“The main thing for me is hitting my corners, my spots,” Proskovec said. “If I can live there, there won’t be many hard-hit balls. I had a few balls hit hard in play and the guys made some plays.”
“Stay down in the zone and let the defense do the work.”
The Saints played a flawless game on defense. They made each play and even robbed the Comets from more hits. Third baseman Cooper Schenck made consecutive gems on hoppers to open the fourth. First baseman Andrew Hamlett was solid, stretching and reeling in throws and fielding grounders.
Proskovec admitted to an energy boost when he saw teammates making play after play behind him.
“No errors,” Proskovec said. “Couldn’t ask for a better game from the defense. That’s all I’m trying to do out there. Just let the defense do all the work.
“I’ve been grinding all year with these guys. We want to keep it rolling.”
Proskovec struck out four batters, giving him 60 in 45 2/3 innings this year. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder lowered his earned-run average to 1.38 and has allowed just 1.01 walks and hits per inning.
Consistent strikes helped Proskovec foil batters, working ahead in the count. He had strong command of a two-seam fastball that cut into right-handed batters. When he wasn’t throwing it for a strike, he was jamming the Comets for outs.
“It was my get-me-over pitch,” Proskovec. “It was really working well.”
The Saints peppered North Polk pitchers for 12 hits. Hamlett and Will Hiserote each had three hits to lead Xavier. Alex Neal and Aidan Henry tallied two hits apiece for the Saints.
Xavier scored in four of the first five innings, creating constant pressure on the Comets. Henry’s sacrifice fly drove in Neal, who led the first off with a double, with the opening run.
The Saints pulled away with consecutive three-run innings. Hiserote, Carlos Baez-Perez and Proskovec drove in runs in the third. Proskovec’s double to right-center plated Hiserote, putting Xavier up, 4-0.
The same trio knocked in runs in the fourth for a 7-0 edge. Hamlett padded the lead with an RBI double to bring in Neal in the fifth.
Eight starters either scored or drove in a run.
“We had traffic every inning,” Halter said. “The innings we didn’t score we were putting runners on and in scoring position. When you do that you put pressure on teams and pitchers have to grind through it.”
The Mustangs (28-11) defeated Xavier, 14-6, on June 14 at Independence. Xavier, a 2021 state semifinalist and 2019 state champion, is attempting to earn its ninth state appearance, while the Mustangs are in search of their third and first since 2010.
“They have a good team,” Halter said. “It’s a product of Eastern Iowa baseball in 3A. We have seven of the top 10 all year.
“They have been knocking on the door. They’re not going to be afraid, coming here, I’m sure.”