CEDAR RAPIDS — One is already an established leader on the mound. The other is expected to emerge as a go-to arm.
Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Logan McDermott and Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Collin Rickertsen were equally effective Thursday night.
McDermott and Rickertsen both tossed gems, leading the Class 3A fifth-ranked Saints and 4A No. 10 Hawks to similar 3-1 victories in a Mississippi Valley Conference baseball doubleheader split at Xavier.
McDermott went the distance for the win in Game 1, allowing just one run and scattering seven hits. Rickertsen allowed one run on five hits through six innings. Bronx Lewis worked the seventh for the save in the nightcap.
McDermott improved to 2-0 and consistently hit the zone the entire game. He faced 24 batters — just three more than the minimum — retired the first six batters and only let one Hawk reach second base. The key was to get ahead and stay ahead of batters.
“I was able to find the strike zone and throw first-pitch strikes,” McDermott said. “Just trust and rely on my defense to make plays behind me, like I know they will.”
McDermott is a contact pitcher with good movement and placement. He had strong command against Prairie. Even though he didn’t record a strikeout, he didn’t walk a single batter.
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“He’s confident right now,” Xavier Coach Dan Halter said. “The big thing is he is hitting his spots, hopefully not getting barreled-up too much and letting our defense work. They’re making plays behind him and it’s a good recipe.”
Xavier (4-2) managed to scrape together enough run support to get him the victory. Jack Lux singled and scored on Alex Neal’s single in the fourth.
The Saints managed two more in the sixth. Nick Banowetz singled, stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw. He scored on a wild pitch. Jaxon Rexroth’s bases-loaded walk added some insurance.
“I thought we had a good approach and did a lot of things well, offensively, in the first game,” Halter said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring that back in Game 2.”
Credit Rickertsen for stifling the Xavier offense except for a lead-off home run by Myles Butkowski in the fourth. In his second appearance, he struck out one and walked just one.
“I knew I had to throw more off-speed tonight,” Rickertsen said. “Curveballs and change-ups were working. Fastballs were getting groundballs and pop flies.”
The junior right-hander didn’t attempt to match McDermott’s outing. He had a simple and effective approach.
“I know my job is to go out there and just throw strikes,” Rickertsen said. “My goal is to let my defense play behind me.
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“I didn’t feel any pressure. Throwing strikes is easy for me. I just knew I could do it.”
With an injury to pitcher Caden Stoffer, the Hawks will rely on Rickertsen to complement lefty starter Jackson Nove, who pitched five innings for a no-decision in Game 1.
“He is going to have to step up and be one of our top guys,” Prairie Coach James Nelson said. “He did a great job.
“Jackson did a great job in the first game, too. We knew that was going to be the battle against a championship-caliber team.”
Nelson said he expected two tight games against the defending 3A state champions. Prairie (4-3) had juniors come through big for them at the plate in the nightcap.
Colton Forslund drilled an RBI double to score Zach Barden in the sixth for a 2-1 lead. Lewis had an RBI single that chased home Nate Keiper, who led off the seventh with a base hit.
“Two guys that hadn’t played varsity (before this year) got two big two-out hits,” Nelson said of Lewis and Forslund. “They made it happened at the end. That’s what it’s all about, getting those big hits in those big moments.”
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