116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Hugh Courter made his first appearance since opening day.
The Saints senior has been with the baseball team the entire season, but he had been a little preoccupied helping Xavier complete a state title sweep of the Class 1A state singles, doubles and team titles.
“It’s been hard,” said Courter, who teamed with Declan Coe to claim the state doubles crown. “Coach Halter has been super understanding with that. He knows my whole dream is to win these two titles I just won in tennis. He knows that I still love baseball. I’ve been here at games. I’ve been participating as much as I can.”
Courter returned to the mound Wednesday, pitching 3 1/3 innings and earning the win in Class 3A second-ranked Xavier’s 12-4 victory over Solon at Ken Charipar Field. He improved to 2-0, playing for the first time since throwing in both games of an opening-day doubleheader against Waterloo West.
“He’s been focusing on tennis but has been ready to get here,” Xavier Coach Dan Halter said. “He’s kept saying Wednesday, ‘I’m back full time.’”
Courter established himself as a reliable right-handed option in the bullpen as a junior. Halter and Courter envision a similar role this season, especially now that tennis is behind him. He hasn’t allowed an earned run and has given up four hits with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings this year.
“He got us a bunch of big outs last year as a reliever,” Halter said. “He’s going to be a key reliever. He just competes.”
“Last year, we threw him into the fire,” Halter said. “We really didn’t know what he had. He just kept answering the bell over and over again, getting big outs when we needed him.”
Halter praised him for being the ultimate teammate, willing to take on any role asked with a positive attitude and strong work ethic. He also has a competitive streak, hoping for more gold this summer.
“I’m willing to help in any way,” Courter said. “I just love baseball. If I’m relief pitching, playing the field, hitting or anything, Honestly, I’m ready to go and help my teammates. Hopefully, I win another state title with these guys, too.”
Courter allowed just one unearned run on one hit Wednesday. He said he didn’t know when he would be used, but assumed it would be this week. Courter was efficient, needing 35 pitches for almost the last half of the game.
“Anytime my number is called I am ready to roll,” Courter said. “I feel like my arm is doing pretty well right now. I said I’d give it a shot and it worked out.
“Usually, I’m more of a pop- or fly-out guy. I don’t get a lot of strikeouts. I just throw strikes, fill the zone and trust my defense. They made some nice plays out there for me.”
Courter also had a crack at the plate. He led off the five-run fifth with a base hit. The Saints sent 10 batters to the plate that inning, tallying four hits and capitalizing on a couple errors to pull away from the Spartans (6-6).
“We wanted him to go out there and keep pitching, so he takes the at-bat,” Halter said. “Then, he gets a knock up the middle.”
The transition from racket to bat takes some time.
“I can still swing the bat a little bit,” Courter said. “I’m still getting used to the shrink in head size from tennis racket to a bat, but I’m slowly making progress
“I just knew if I put the bat on the ball good things would happen.”
Xavier pounded 15 hits with five collecting more than one. Carlos Baez-Perez led the way, going 4-for-4 and Alex Neal had a single and double for Xavier. Aidan Henry, Andrew Hamlett and Will Hiserote added two hits apiece for Xavier (10-2).
“We played really well,” Halter said. “Good energy all the way through. We had two-out hits. So many of our outs were productive. Lots of good at-bats. A lot of good defense.”