116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Dan Halter was leafing through his team’s scorebook postgame Wednesday night at Banks Field, looking for an answer. You knew exactly the question.
How many Cedar Rapids Xavier Saints came to bat in the bottom of the third inning, Coach? It was 18.
“Is that what it was? Seriously?” Halter said.
Yeah, 18, a nice round number that led to 13 runs and an eventual 18-3 win over MOC-Floyd Valley in a Class 3A state tournament quarterfinal. Multiple 18s here.
The game ended in the bottom of the fourth on a bases-loaded walk to Sean Steffen. Not to say Xavier (26-12) watched errant pitches all night because it hit a ton of them that were in the strike zone.
Especially in that 45-minute bottom of the third, when the Saints recorded 12. Jack Lux had a single and bases-loaded triple, joining teammates Aiden Henry and Brody Hoffman as dudes who went 2-for-2.
Again, in one inning.
“At the end of the day, it was a great response by our guys,” Lux said.
Second-seeded Xavier will meet Dubuque Wahlert (31-10) in the 3A semifinals Friday afternoon at 1:30. The Saints swept the Golden Eagles in a regular-season doubleheader.
“Everybody hit well,” said starting pitcher Alex Neal, who went 2-for-2 in the game with two runs and three RBIs. “If we can continue to hit that well, we should be able to play two more games.”
As it turned out, the most insignificant thing in this one was Xavier’s sloppy start. A dropped flyball in left field and ensuing error on a grounder gave MOC-Floyd Valley (27-9) an immediate lead.
But Xavier countered with two runs in the bottom of the first to go ahead. Then that third inning happened.
“That was not the start we wanted to get off to, I know that,” Halter said. “Fortunately our guys kept their composure and stayed in it and bounced back.”
With the big lead, Halter was able to get ace Neal out of the game after 3 2/3 innings, allowing him an opportunity to throw again in Saturday’s championship game, if Xavier wins its semifinal.
“Yeah, we were trying to keep me under 65 pitches so I can throw later on in the tournament, if we make it,” said Neal, who gave up two hits and two earned runs. “So that was big.”
Just think how this team came precariously close to not even making it to the state tournament. Not even making it to a substate final.
Bondurant-Farrar had Xavier down three runs in the seventh inning of their substate semifinal a little under two weeks ago. The Saints rallied to force extras, then won it.
Convincing wins over Solon and MOC-Floyd Valley have followed.
“We talked to them about it, how postseason baseball, it’s a cliché, but it’s single elimination, seven innings, you never know,” Halter said. “The biggest thing to take from that was no matter what happens, if we’re up or the opponent’s up, it’s not over, you’ve just got to keep fighting. That was the biggest thing we learned.”
Comments: (319)-398-8258, firstname.lastname@example.org