DES MOINES — Seemingly every year at the conclusion of the state baseball tournament, this conversation comes around — who is the Newman Catholic player or players leaving huge footsteps to follow?
As cliché as that sounds, it’s far from it. The Knights have churned out big-name players for years, and the latest to earn that recognition of being a couple of the best to slip on a Newman Catholic uniform are Ben Fitzgerald and Peyton Scott.
From the start of their careers to the finish, they were winners. In their time at Newman, the Knights won three championships, capped off Saturday as the Knights won their sixth state title in school history. Fitzgerald and Scott truly exemplified the work it took to be a champion.
“It’s been fantastic and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m really lucky and blessed to be a part of this program. This is our program right here, this is what we work for every day and there’s a reason why we’re down here a lot. It’s the coaches and the players and the whole program, and I’m just really glad to be a part of it.”
Maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation if Fitzgerald and the Knights didn’t have the attitude they did after a loss to St. Ansgar broke their 38-year streak of conference titles.
For Newman coach Alex Bohl, it was a moment a day after that loss he knew they’d be just fine.
“After we got beat by St. Ansgar I told the guys not to think about the game at all, and what do you know Ben Fitzgerald sends me a text the next morning saying ‘It’s OK, coach. We’re going to get you the one that matters, and we’re going to be the hardest working team…’ And they stuck to it,” Bohl said.
“Those three guys (Scott, Fitzgerald and Dylan Nelson) held everybody accountable and they put forth what it needed to take and stepped up in those situations. I couldn’t ask for a better group to end this with.”
Fitzgerald finished with statistically one of the top seasons in school history. He had a single-season record 29 doubles, drove in 71 runs, and hit well over .500.
Scott was right there with Fitzgerald every step of the way over their careers.
He first burst onto the scene as a defensive specialist in center field and blossomed into an outstanding leadoff hitter for the Knights. He also made the ridiculous diving grabs or catches on the run look routine. It got to the point where if a ball was hit anywhere in his direction, you almost assumed Scott was going to haul it in.
He had one more signature moment from his centerfield position Saturday. With the Knights trying to preserve a 7-3 lead in the top of the fifth after their big fourth inning, Scott chased down a fly ball to shallow center, and then gunned down the runner trying to tag from third and score with ease. By the time the ball was fired into catcher Matthew Fitzsimmons’ glove, the Blue Devils’ runner still had about 10 feet to go before even getting to home. Fitzsimmons made the easy tag.
“Peyton loves this stage,” Bohl said. "Ever since his freshman year coming on and making a splash, when he gets here he’s going to make a statement. He had a huge hit to get us started and then he throws a guy out to keep the momentum on our side. Big players step up in big games and Peyton is definitely one of those guys and I’m just so happy for him.”
There’s been a lot of great players who have come through Newman Catholic and it takes a lot to stand out. The way these two played the game has them right up there with the guys.
There was never any cockiness or arrogance, but you knew they were confident in their abilities, and that’s what made them both a pleasure to watch for anyone who got the chance to see them.
“It just means everything to me,” Scott said of his time at Newman. “It’s not as much the winning, it’s growing as a person and growing as a player. Those coaches that I’ve had and been blessed with in every sport, they told me to reach my full potential and I couldn’t thank them enough.”
As for ending with a title?
“I wouldn’t imagine it any other way,” he said.