DES MOINES — Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Bryson Bastian was tired, out of breath and buried among a mass of teammates.
He may have even taken a cleat or two to the head, but it was well worth it.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Bastian said of the dogpile after the top-ranked Saints defeated No. 3 DeWitt Central, 8-1, for the Class 3A state baseball tournament title Saturday at Principal Park. “For a state championship, are you kidding me? I’d take anything. I’d take a bullet.”
Bastian fired a complete game four-hitter, tallying 12 strikeouts, and the Saints rapped 12 hits to capture their second state baseball championship and first since 2006. Xavier finished with a program-best 41-2 record.
“They’re unbelievable,” Xavier Coach Dan Halter said. “It’s just crazy.”
The Saints’ seniors cap their athletic career with a hefty title-trophy haul. Some were a part of two state football titles and contributed to two state basketball crowns. Now, there is one for baseball.
“It’s been a blessing to grow up with them,” Xavier senior Quinn Schulte said. “We were able to come back and get the job done one last time. No better feeling.”
Bastian was solid, improving to 11-0 and notching his second victory of the tournament. He earned the win against Adel ADM in the quarterfinals and finished with 22 total strikeouts in his two appearances.
He retired the last nine batters and 14 of the last 15.
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“Once I got in a rhythm, I was really feeling good and hitting my spots and the corners,” Bastian said. “(Catcher) Garrett (Ries) does a great job behind the plate. We work together really well, so that’s a lot of help from him.”
From Bastian’s performance on the mound to the errorless defense and the timely hits, Xavier was clutch. The Saints were 7-for-12 with two outs and 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position, matching the number of hits they had in the previous two rounds combined.
“Winning a ballgame just comes down to the little things,” Bastian said. “Guys stepping to the plate with two outs. Guys on second and third and just driving those two runs in. Those big runs. The two-out hit is what we needed.”
The approach helped the Saints take a three-run lead in the first. Kyle Moeder ignited a rally, hustling to turn a hit to right center into a double. After a walk to Ries, Nick Banowetz beat out an infield single and Moeder hurried home for the first run when the throw skipped by the first baseman.
Bastian helped his own cause with an RBI single to left and Nate Skala followed with another RBI single. Xavier was 4-for-4 with a walk after Sabers starter Lucas Bixby retired the first two batters.
Skala led the way with three hits and two RBIs. Ries, Bastian and Banowetz each had two apiece.
“It shows mental toughness,” Halter said. “You’re staying with an inning and staying focused. You’re never giving in and that is huge.”
Skala also added an infield RBI single in the third, giving Xavier a 4-1 lead and answering an RBI double from Central’s Garrett Finley in the top half. He used his speed to touch the bag before the pitcher, who was covering on the grounder to first.
“I saw he was pitching first-pitch strikes so I just wanted to attack the first pitch and luckily it went into right field,” Skala said. “The grounder to the right, the first baseman went over to his right and I knew with my speed I could potentially beat it out and I did. It was a big run because they put up a run.”
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Xavier continued the hit barrage with three hits in the fourth, including an RBI double from Schulte and an RBI triple from Ries. The Saints added two more in the fifth. All but one starter reached base and seven Saints scored at least one run.
“The strength of this team was the unit,” Halter said. “We’ve got some really good players, but the depth is what makes this a championship team.
The victory was a little sweeter given last year’s finish. The Saints had state aspirations, despite being in a substate that included all four of this season’s state semifinalists. The Sabers (38-4) derailed those hopes with a win in the district finals, but that added fuel to the Saints’ fire this season.
“They are a very good team,” Skala said. “It’s a great win for us, the seniors and our fans. The motivation from last year really helped us to come back this year.”
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