CEDAR RAPIDS — He had multiple things from which to choose.
There was the expertly dropped bunt down the third-base line that helped set up a crooked-number fourth inning for his team. There was his ringing RBI double to the fence in left-center field an inning later.
But Nick Nading’s favorite thing about Tuesday night was something else.
“I think I liked the way I pitched most,” the Cedar Rapids Washington senior said, after his team’s 6-2 win over Cedar Rapids Xavier in the semifinals of the Bob Vrbicek Metro Tournament at Washington. “That’s what I love.”
The right-hander didn’t give up an earned run in 4 1/3 relief innings as Washington moved on to the finals of this tourney for a second consecutive year. The Warriors face Class 4A eighth-ranked Cedar Rapids Jefferson in Wednesday night’s championship game at Veterans Memorial Stadium at approximately 7.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and help my team out tonight,” Nading said. “Just do the best I can.”
Xavier scored an unearned run in the top of the fourth for a 2-1 lead, but Washington responded in the bottom of the inning for four telltale runs. Jacob Bockenstedt was hit by a pitch leading off, then Nolan Cavanaugh reached when his sacrifice bunt was misplayed for an error.
Nading, who had all of seven at-bats last season, moved the runners up with his bunt, then a walk filled the bases. A run-scoring groundout by Ben Skogman tied things, then Draeden Spang followed with a clutch two-run single the other way to right field off losing pitcher Will Angstman.
“I was thinking fastball in the zone,” said Spang, who was his club’s starting pitcher. “Get a good pitch to drive, and it was a flat fastball. I drove it to right field, and, luckily, it dropped. I thought he was going to catch it, but good luck for me, he didn’t catch it.”
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Washington graduated its fair share of talent from last season’s state tournament team, but has several key pieces returning.
“We lost a lot of players, so people have to step up,” said third baseman Lincoln Riley, who walked twice, scored a run and drove in another. “There are a lot of people who can fill in. I have faith in everyone, everyone has faith in each other. So I think we’re ready.”
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