CEDAR RAPIDS — The announcement was fairly subtle and accurate.
“Fantastic performance, Mr. Cross,” was said by the public address announcer, describing the latest start by Cedar Rapids Jefferson senior right-hander Jon Cross.
Cross pitched a complete-game shutout with 13 strikeouts for a 2-0 victory over Class 4A third-ranked Western Dubuque in the opener of a Mississippi Valley Conference baseball doubleheader Monday night at Lower Kingston. The Bobcats won the nightcap, 10-5, for the split.
The five-hit outing ranked among his best ever.
“This is definitely up there,” Cross said. “I had everything dealing. It felt good. This is probably top-five for me.”
Cross improved to 6-2 this season, dropping his earned-run average to 2.68. Jefferson co-head coach Terry Schneekloth said he knows Cross is capable of shutdown performances, even against top teams. He faced just 28 batters and allowed just one runner to reach third.
“We know he’s an extremely talented pitcher and know that sometimes you don’t recognize you’re playing the No. 3 (team) in the state, because he’s mowing through them,” Schneekloth said. “When the pitcher is in control of the game, it doesn’t matter who is hitting. He’s going to be successful.”
Cross pounded the zone with curveballs and new addition to his arsenal. He worked on a cutter with Jefferson co-head coach Gordy Nordgren this week. He used it to complement his curveball and was effective. He struck out two in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings, ending the game with consecutive strikeouts. He also tallied three in the third.
“I had a little bit of a game plan inside my head coming into the game,” said Cross, who got a scouting report from Nordgren. “I knew some of the holes and where to throw them.”
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Jefferson (18-15, 13-13) did just enough offensively to support the pitching gem. Brayden Boche led off the third and fifth with singles that led to runs. Chase Keeney’s single scored Boche for a 1-0 lead in the third. In the fifth, Drake Frazier’s sacrifice fly in foul territory chased home pinch-runner Jackson Schreckengast.
Western Dubuque (26-7, 20-6) rebounded with seven runs in the first two innings of Game 2, capitalizing on six early walks. Zach Bierman was 2-for-2 with three RBIs, including a two-run home run in the fourth. Sam Goodman, Kyle Lehmann and Payton Quagliano each had two hits for the Bobcats in the nightcap. Quagliano had two RBIs.
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