DES MOINES — In each of Newman Catholic’s five state title game appearances in the past six years there’s been one constant — there’s always been at least one Fitzgerald on the field.
As the Knights get set to take the field Saturday at 11 a.m. vs. Martensdale-St. Marys in the Class 1A state title game, it could be the first and last time all three brothers — Josh, Ben and Jack — are in the dugout at the same time.
“It’s sweet that it’s all three of us combined and it’s pretty cool with Ben batting right behind me and when he bats me in, and then Jack screaming from the dugout,” Josh said.
Ben has served as the Knights’ power hitter out of the No. 3 hole in the lineup this season. He comes into the championship game with a state-leading 70 RBIs and 29 doubles.
Josh, who started as an eighth-grader, has hit out of the No. 2 spot all season and is hitting .396 with 12 doubles and 41 RBIs.
The duo, who were also in the lineup for Newman’s last state title in 2015, have combined to score 115 runs this season.
And then there’s Jack, a 2014 graduate who was an all-state players back in his playing days, is in the dugout as an assistant coach. He’s home for the summer from Houston Baptist, a Division I school where he plays on the baseball team.
“It’s just like playing in the backyard every single year of our lives,” Ben said of having his two brothers by his side this year. “It’d be great to have Jack back out there on the field, but I might have some competition out there at shortstop. The next best thing is having him in the dugout and it’s awesome.
“We all like to talk a little crap to each other but that’s just what brothers like to do. When you get down to it, though, it’s great having them around.”
Evan with the family bond, there’s little messing around for the Fitzgerald boys. When it comes to baseball, they’re all business.
“You see them before practice and you see them after practice and they’re there with Jack and with their dad hitting,” Newman coach Alex Bohl said. “They’re taking cuts and cut and cuts and all the work it takes to be an excellent ballplayer.
“They’re putting in the work and it’s definitely showing, and that’s what it takes out of everybody. If I can have a bunch of players who put in the work like the Fitzgerald boys do, we’re going to be a pretty good team. I just hope the other guys feed off of that and hope they step up Saturday. “
It’s that team mentality that Newman will need Saturday if it hopes to be hoisting the trophy for its sixth state title in school history. And they’ll meet a team they’ve become very familiar with at the state tournament over the years in Martensdale-St. Mary’s, which is seeking its fifth state title.
In the run up to this point, that’s what the Knights have gotten. Sure the Fitzgerald boys have been great this season, but it has taken No. 1 through 9, they said, to give them this opportunity.
“The guys put in so much work,” Bohl said. “The work they put in the offseason and the dedication they put in through the season — they’re at the diamond 5, 6, 7 hours a day and they’re just putting in work and getting better. You couldn’t ask for a better way to end the season fighting for a state title.”
The Blue Devils come into the matchup fresh off a 6-1 win over Akron-Westfield in their semifinal game.
They have four players hitting .400 or better, led by junior Brady Gavin and his .536 batting average. Gavin also has 18 doubles, eight home runs and 67 RBIs.
“We have to be ready to play in the first inning,” Ben Fitzgerald said. “We struggled with the first innings a little bit. Do the little things right, play clean defensively and have great at-bats, and if we play Newman Baseball the way we should then it’ll fall the right way.”