DES MOINES — Newman Catholic found itself in strange territory through four innings of Friday’s Class 1A state quarterfinal against CAM (Anita).
The Cougars jumped to a 2-1 lead through five innings as the Knights were yet to find the one hit they needed to give them a spark. Then came Evan Paulus to the plate.
With one swing, Paulus launched a two-run home run to give the Knights their first lead, and Newman tacked on seven more from there as they cruised to a 10-2 opening-round victory to win a game at state for the 10th straight year.
“We just try to stay calm because we know eventually we’re going to get that big hit that’s going to push us,” Newman junior Ian Holmgaard said. “After Evan’s huge hit for us, we just kept rolling from there and it was pretty much over after that.”
CAM scored twice in the first inning thanks to a pair of Newman errors, but it never got to Paulus on the mound.
“I was getting rattled in the first inning — I wasn’t throwing strikes — but I found my release point and just had to bring it down a bit,” he said. “After that, I was just rolling.”
Newman came within a run with a run in the bottom of the third on an RBI single by Paulus that scored Holmgaard. The Knights would strand two in the inning, though, and left the bases loaded in the fourth after a couple of nice plays by CAM in the field.
Then came the inning that broke it wide open.
Ben Fitzgerald led off the inning with his first of two doubles in the game, and then came Paulus’ big fly which he cranked off the video ribbon above the seats in left field to hand the Knights their first lead.
“I was sprinting out of the box hoping we could get that run to tie it up, and it went over so that helped us out a lot,” Paulus said. “I was glad I could come through for the team.”
It was like a switch flipped for the Knights in the at-bats that followed.
Josh Thilges laid down an RBI sac bunt, Ian Holmgaard slapped an RBI single, Josh Fitzgerald walked with the bases loaded, a run scored on a wild pitch, Ben Fitzgerald launched a two-run double, and Andrew Morse roped an RBI double to give the Knights nine for the inning.
“I think we just had to stay patient, get our pitches, hit them in the gap … just stay patient and it will come,” Newman junior Matthew Fitzsimmons said.
Added Newman coach Alex Bohl “I felt a little confidence brewing at the plate, and then Benny gets on with that double, and then Evan’s home run — I could feel the momentum from there. I felt it shift a little bit to our side, and our guys, credit to them, they took advantage of that swing.”
From there, it was never a contest.
Paulus went on to finish with 10 strikeouts on the mound, walked one and allowed four hits in the complete-game victory.
At the plate, Holmgaard led the Knights with a 3-for-4 performance, and Ben Fitzgerald, Paulus, Morse and Fitzsimmons added two hits apiece.
Newman will play Remsen St. Marys in the 1A semifinals next Thursday inside Principal Park.
“We have a lot of young kids so the nerves might have been getting to us for awhile, but when we had that nine-run inning it helped us out, and hopefully we can carry that over to the next game,” Paulus said.