116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CASCADE — D.J. Soper’s first two starts have been against ranked teams.
Cascade’s sophomore right-hander faced Anamosa, which jumped from 10th to seventh in Class 2A in the last two weeks, last Friday. For an encore, he took the mound against fifth-ranked rival Dyersville Beckman.
“In a sense, Friday is D.J.’s day to throw rotation-wise,” Cascade Coach Roamn Hummel said. “So, that’s where we went.”
After a rough beginning, Soper refocused to produce a quality start, the offense posted four runs in the first inning to give him some slack and the Class 2A 10th-ranked Cougars downed the Blazers, 6-3, in a prep baseball game Friday night at American Legion Field. It was Cascade’s first win over Beckman since 2019.
“It’s a good feeling beating our rivals,” Cougars junior Mason Otting said. “They’re a good team. We’re a good team and beating a ranked team is always good.”
Soper earned his first win of the season, pitching 4 2/3 innings and allowing three runs on seven hits. He experienced a troublesome opening frame, hitting leadoff batter Luke Schieltz, who reached third on two wild pitches and scored on Nick Schmidt’s RBI groundout.
Soper admitted he battled nerves to open the contest. He even felt them warming up before the game when he struggled to control his fastball — his main pitch.
“The bullpen wasn’t very good,” Soper said. “I couldn’t throw my fastball for a strike. I think I threw 75 pitches and 73 were fastballs, so it’s important for me to be able to throw that for a strike.
“Then, I came out in the first and hit the first batter with a curveball that bounced in the grass.”
Hummel ventured out to the mound and huddled with Soper and the infield. He was able to get his point across and quell Soper’s jitters.
“He kind of yelled at me in the mound visit and calmed me down,” Soper said. “I saw a strike and settled in after that.”
He followed with three scoreless innings and Cade Rausch worked 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the save.
“D.J. did a great job of settling down and getting into it,” Hummel said. “That was huge for us to just give up the one run.
”Once he settled down, he was really good. We have utilized Cade as a closer all year long. He did a really good job again, coming in and getting it done.”
Cascade’s offense provided a major boost in the bottom of the first. The Cougars (9-2) tallied four runs on two key two-out hits for a three-run lead. Consecutive singles by Tanner Simon, Jack Menster and Rausch loaded the bases. Two batters later, Ty Frasher delivered a two-run single.
“It was a big momentum swing,” Otting said. “I just got up there and hoped to do the same thing.”
Otting followed with a two-run double, giving the Cougars a lead for good. The early advantage helped Soper loosen up on the mound and generated some added energy.
“It’s always good to get up on them early,” Otting said. “We score a lot of runs with two outs and that’s huge.”
Cascade didn’t sit on its lead. Justin Roling led off the second with his first home run of the season, making it 5-1. Cooper Hummel doubled and scored in the third, as the Cougars smacked nine hits. Simon and Otting led the way with two hits apiece.
The Cougars have been hitting well in practice and games earlier this week, according to the elder Hummel. They changed some things and discussed their approach to batting. It carried over against Beckman.
“I think the guys have a better idea of what they want to do at the plate and it started to show,” Hummel said. “Yesterday, we hit the ball hard and even had loud outs. We did that again.”
Beckman (11-7) rallied for two in the fifth. Luke Sigwarth and Nate Offerman hit back-to-back RBI doubles to pull the Blazers back within three but couldn’t manage any more.
Sigwarth, Offerman and Lane Kramer each had two hits to pace Beckman.