CEDAR RAPIDS — Over the past month, the Cedar Rapids Xavier baseball team has found many ways to win.
The second-ranked Saints brought a 17-game winning streak into Monday night’s Class 3A District 7 final against DeWitt Central at Ken Charipar Field and appeared to be in control, leading 2-0 after four innings.
“Single elimination baseball,” said Xavier Coach Dan Halter. “Crazy things can happen.”
Those crazy things for the Sabers were two walks, two sacrifice bunts, a single and a double that resulted in four runs in the top of the fifth. The visitors then got what proved to be the winning run on a Tucker Kinney leadoff homer in the sixth en route to a 5-4 upset over the Saints.
DeWitt Central (29-13) will meet No. 3 Davenport Assumption on Wednesday night in the Substate 4 title game. The Knights advanced with a 1-0 win Monday over Dubuque Wahlert.
Xavier, which finished 30-10, again had chances to spin the magic that has been its trademark during the winning streak.
“We had opportunities to add more runs early that we didn’t take advantage of,” Halter said. “Their four-run inning kind of snowballed on us. That’s just the way it happens sometime.”
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The Saints grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third. The key blow was an RBI double from Kyle Moeder but, as Halter pointed out, Xavier had runners on second and third with nobody out. The Saints couldn’t score any additional runs off Garrett Finley, who came on in relief of starter Lucas Bixby in the third.
Xavier starter Bryson Bastian was cruising through four, allowing just one infield single. Then came the fifth. He walked the first two batters. After a bunt put them into scoring position, No. 9 hitter BJ Frick dropped down a squeeze bunt and moved to second when Bastian’s flip home eluded catcher Garrett Ries.
Devin Hurdle followed with a two-run single and Cam Steffens brought him home with a double and it was suddenly a 4-2 deficit. Kinney homered to start the sixth, but Xavier made a push in the bottom of the inning, scoring twice on a fielder’s choice and a Gabe Lux single.
In the seventh, Xavier had the tying run on second with one out, but Quinn Schulte’s liner was snagged by Bixby at third and he fired to second to double off pinch runner Braden Stovie to end the game.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Halter said, fighting back the tears. “They’ve been fighters all year and one game certainly doesn’t diminish the great season they had.”