DES MOINES — Nearly a year ago, Caden Kratz was the pitcher who closed out on the mound in the Class 1A semifinal loss vs. Remsen St. Mary’s. He came on midway through the seventh and the Hawks scored four runs in the frame on the way to a 5-3 victory.
Kratz got a little bit of redemption on Thursday. And when he recorded the final strikeout to seal a 2-0 win over Remsen St. Mary’s in a Class 1A state semifinal, his celebration told the story of just how much he wanted this one. The victory moved the Knights into the state title game for the fifth time in six years.
“There’s a lot of nerves because last year I came in and they hit me pretty well and we ended up losing,” Kratz said. “I decided it was a new game and a new team, so I just had to keep playing my best baseball.”
With Newman up 2-0 entering the seventh inning, the Knights had a little flashback in the memories of that game last year when Kratz walked the leadoff batter. After a 2-0 count, coach Alex Bohl had to make a trip to the mound to make sure the wheels weren’t going to fall off.
“Bohl came out and kind of settled me down,” Kratz said. “He just said ‘I believe in you. You can do this.’”
Kratz went on to strike out that batter, got the next to ground out, and then tossed his 10th strikeout of the game on the final batter. After the strikeout, Kratz raised his arms in triumph, proving just how big this moment was for him and the Knights.
“He was a competitor,” Bohl said. “Even though he probably wasn’t his best at hitting his spots today, he was able to mix it up and he competed every single pitch. It took an excellent performance out of him to put us in this position and he stepped up to the challenge.”
Kratz worked his fast ball to near perfection early Thursday, and once he had the Hawks’ batters trying to catch up, his off-speed stuff came around.
He finished the game with a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts and two walks.
The Newman offense didn’t need to do much to back him. The Knights scored twice in the bottom of the third on an RBI double by Josh Fitzgerald that scored Peyton Scott, and a double down the first-base line by Evan Paulus that scored Fitzgerald.
For the game, Ben Fitzgerald added two singles, and Andrew Morse and Matthew Fizsimmons each had a hit.
“We played probably one of our best games, pitching wise and defensively, that we have all year,” Bohl said. “We did just enough at the plate to get it done and that’s what it takes.”
And now the Knights are back in a state title game
“After the almost the exact same game, we wanted to get back there and we did it and it’s awesome,” Josh Fitzgerald said. “But we’ve got one more left.”
Newman (34-3) will meet up with Martensdale-St Marys, which held off Akron-Westfield in its semifinal, at 11 a.m. Saturday inside Principal Park with the winner being crowned state champion.
“Every single year it’s the best feeling and this is why we play,” Ben Fitzgerald said. “Getting back to another championship Saturday and we’re just looking to win another one and hopefully end the season on the right note.”