Prep Baseball

Defending state baseball champion Cedar Rapids Xavier sharp in delayed season opener

Saints roll past Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 11-1 in 5 innings

Cedar Rapids Xavier's Ben Kisting pitches during a game at Mount Mercy in Cedar Rapids last season. (Liz Martin/The Gaze
Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Ben Kisting pitches during a game at Mount Mercy in Cedar Rapids last season. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — There may be a new normal in the way sports are conducted, but it looked like the same old Xavier Saints on the baseball diamond on Tuesday night.

The defending Class 3A state champions were sharp from the start in their season opener against Cedar Rapids Jefferson, rolling to an 11-1, five-inning victory at Ken Charpiar Field.

With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing back the start of the season by three weeks, it would have been understandable if the No. 5-ranked Saints had some kinks to work out.

“It was good for us to get bats going early,” Xavier Coach Dan Halter said. “We did a good job of executing early and Ben (Kisting) was pumping strikes. It’s what you look for on night one.”

Kisting was solid on the mound, allowing just one run on three hits in five innings. He struck out eight and walked two.

The Saints scored three runs in the first and added six more in the second. Myles Bitkowski had the key hit in the inning, driving home two with a double down the right-field line. He finished with two hits and a walk in three plate appearances, driving in three runs.

With only two weeks to prepare, Halter said there was a lot of work put in by the players on their own to get ready for a season that had the potential to not even happen.

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“Our guys were doing their things on their own,” he said. “The biggest adjustment was the fact that hitters weren’t able to see live pitching until we started practice.

“Pitchers were able to throw during the time away. Hitters hadn’t seen any live pitching since the end of last year. We didn’t have the spring games and then we had short practices so everything leading up to this had the hitters a little behind.”

Xavier is coming off one of the best seasons ever. The Saints went 41-2, capping it off with a state title in Des Moines.

Despite the fact many of the key performers from that group have departed, the goal remains the same for the Saints.

“We keep preaching the only thing they have to match from last year is how we come to work every day,” Halter said. “We have a lot of pieces and we are still trying to evaluate how the puzzle is going to fit together.”

Ian Wiederin had two of Jefferson’s three hits and drove home the lone J-Hawk run.

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