Prep Baseball

Cedar Rapids Xavier, motivated by early exit in 2018, on doorstep of state baseball trip

Saints fell in district finals a year ago, face Charles City in substate finals Wednesday

Cedar Rapids Xavier's Quinn Schulte (17) looks back before running for third base against Western Dubuque in a prep baseball game at Xavier in Cedar Rapids on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Xavier's Quinn Schulte (17) looks back before running for third base against Western Dubuque in a prep baseball game at Xavier in Cedar Rapids on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Xavier’s baseball team didn’t get its desired ending a year ago.

The Saints were stuffed in a tough district that included three of the current top-four teams in Class 3A. The district paired with the other top-four team.

The district final loss to DeWitt Central ignited Xavier to a marquee season, sitting atop the state rankings and posting the state’s best record.

“We kind of used that as motivation,” Xavier senior Quinn Schulte said. “We focused on the little things this year. You can’t really control certain stuff like that, so we are trying to control what we can and see where it takes us.”

Xavier has moved within a victory of its first state berth since 2013. The Saints host Charles City in the Class 3A Substate 3 title game Wednesday night at Ken Charipar Field, starting at 7.

Xavier boasts a 37-2 record, a Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division championship and an opportunity for the program’s seventh state berth.

“Obviously, it is a goal of ours we have had for quite a while,” Schulte said. “We are going to focus and take each pitch one at a time. Hopefully, we will walk out on top.”

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Xavier opened the postseason with a drubbing of Iowa Falls-Alden and then beat Decorah, 9-4, in the district final.

Lessons were learned from the early exit at the hands of DeWitt Central. The Saints disregard records or previous results and approach every game with the same business-like attitude.

“The biggest thing is you never know what it’s going to be,” Halter said. “You have to play the game. Single-elimination baseball with seven innings you have to show up every night and be ready to go.”

Xavier leads 3A with 335 runs, averaging more than 8.5 runs per game. The Saints are third in team batting average (.345) and on-base percentage (.460.) Xavier also has the third-best team earned-run average of 1.82.

“I think the biggest thing is for pitchers to throw strikes, we have a lot of good pitchers on the team, and then stay clean in the field, limiting our errors,” Schulte said. “When we are up to bat, we are trying to put the ball in play and hope they get through or force the other team to make plays.”

Charles City (18-16) stands in the Saints’ way of Principal Park in Des Moines. The Comets upended Waverly-Shell Rock for the district title.

“They are scoring runs,” Halter said. “They are playing well down the stretch.

“They had to go to Waverly and beat a team with a good program, tradition and good recent history. Doing that grabs your attention. They deserve our full attention and respect. We will have to play well.”

No. 4 Marion (27-4) hosts Solon (23-16) in the 3A Substate 6 final. The Indians swept the Spartans in a doubleheader in June. Marion is looking for its second state berth in three seasons, while Solon is trying for its second in a row.

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In Class 4A, Cedar Rapids Prairie (22-19) heads to second-ranked Iowa City West (32-7) in the Substate 5 final. The Trojans are looking for their ninth state trip since 2009.

Western Dubuque (31-9) produced a strong postseason run last year, reaching the 4A semifinals. The fifth-ranked Bobcats will try to return, facing Davenport Central (15-16) in the Substate 4 final at Farley.

Linn-Mar (26-11) has a chance to make its second state appearance in three seasons and first under head coach Kyle Rodenkirk, who led Cedar Rapids Jefferson to the 2016 state tournament. The Lions host Pleasant Valley (24-11) at Oak Ridge Middle School.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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