Prep Baseball

Cedar Rapids Xavier staves off ADM's upset bid in state baseball quarterfinals

No. 1 Saints advance to Class 3A semifinals with 7-2 win

DES MOINES — Cedar Rapids Xavier baseball coach Dan Halter chuckled with as much relief as excitement.

He realizes the importance of surviving and advancing in the postseason.

“Any win I feel happy, especially any win at Principal (Park),” Halter said. “There is definitely a sense of relief because that was a battle. It was a tight game. It was a well-played game. Any time you escape, it’s just on to the next one. It doesn’t matter what it is.”

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The top-ranked Saints scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to break open a tied game and defeat Adel ADM, 7-2, in the Class 3A state baseball quarterfinals Tuesday at Principal Park. Xavier will make its fifth semifinal appearance Friday and the first since 2007.

“It feels good,” Xavier’s Kyle Moeder said. “We’re trying to keep it normal like we have been. Nothing changes. We are in the semifinals, which is good, but we’re going to stay focused and locked in on Friday and that is it.”

ADM (13-18) played the role of postseason Cinderella, reaching the state tournament with a substate victory over fifth-ranked Harlan. The Tigers hung with Xavier for 5 1/2 innings thanks to the arm of left-handed starter Logan Crannell, who struck out eight batters and limited Xavier to four hits.

The Saints’ outburst coincided with Crannell being replaced on the mound after a leadoff walk to Nate Skala in the sixth.

Skala’s hustle play off Isaac Ball’s misplayed grounder helped set up the winning run. When the ball bounced off the third baseman’s glove and trickled into the left-field grass, the speedy Skala never broke stride and reached third with none out.

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“I saw it off the bat,” Skala said. “When I saw both the third baseman and shortstop go after the ball, I knew I could get to third easily and they would have to make a perfect throw to get me out.

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“I just tried to get a good turn on the base and round it good to get to third so we could get a run in.”

Jaxson Konzen dropped a squeeze bunt that allowed Skala to beat the throw home for a 3-2 lead. The Saints started to roll. Quinn Schulte added an RBI groundout to make it 4-2. Moeder followed with an RBI double and Garrett Ries hit a run-scoring single.

“We stayed confident and up in the dugout,” Moeder said. “We got a couple runners on right away with no outs and moved them over and got them in. We executed.”

Actually, the go-ahead squeeze was the second of the game. Xavier used small ball in the second for a 1-0 edge. Skala laid down a bunt to score Nick Banowetz, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning.

Xavier’s second run came the following inning when Moeder scored from second when a throw down to first sailed down the right-field line.

“I love watching these guys play,” Halter said. “They run the bases right. We execute bunts when we have to and in those spots we executed when we needed.”

Bryson Bastian stymied the ADM offense. He improved to 9-0, allowing just five hits and striking out 10 in six innings. Braden Albert closed the game with an inning of relief.

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“They are a good hitting team,” Bastian said. “They got a piece of a couple balls. I was just trying to locate fastball and work off-speed.”

ADM took a lead in the top of the third. Spencer Collins doubled and scored on Tate Stine-Smith’s base hit. The Tigers pulled a double steal for a 2-1 lead.

“It’s a shame the pumpkin had to burst, but that’s baseball and you have to go out and play it,” ADM Coach Jason Book said. “We just fell on the short end today.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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