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Class 1A state baseball championship

Newman Catholic players pose with their winning bracket poster after the Class 1A state baseball championship at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

The game, and the season, ended in fitting fashion - with a celebration.

On Saturday at Principal Park in Des Moines, the Newman Catholic Knights clinched the Class 1A state championship with an 11-1 win over Alburnett.

State baseball final

Newman Catholic players celebrate with their state champion trophy after winning the state final game against Alburnett, 11-1, at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Merritt McCardle came to the plate and took a pitch off the thigh, forcing in George Schmit from third base for the game-ending run.

That triggered a dog-pile out near first base as the Knights became 1A state champions for the third consecutive season and the eighth time in program history.

“It’s a feeling you really can’t describe,” head coach Alex Bohl said. “The way these guys competed, these seniors this last four or five years and having some of the best players to ever come through our program, for them to finish at the pinnacle, I’m just so happy.”

Senior Josh Fitzgerald was responsible for one of the game’s most memorable moments. With a 3-1 lead, a runner on first base and no outs in the fourth inning, Fitzgerald hit a home run that nearly went over the building beyond the left field wall. It elicited oohs and aahs from the crowd and Fitzgerald was greeted at home plate by a mob of his teammates.

State baseball final

Newman Catholic players dog pile on top of Merritt McCardle (23) after he is walked to bring in winning run over Alburnett during the state final game at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

“It was a fastball on the middle part of the plate and I put a barrel on it,” Fitzgerald said. “As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone. I just let loose and it was awesome.”

Fitzgerald played like a man possessed in the state tournament. In the semifinal against Don Bosco, he went 4-for-4 with two triples, a double, a single and four runs scored. In Saturday’s championship game, he walked three times, hit the home run and nearly ended the game in the bottom of the sixth inning when he hit a long drive to left field that just barely hooked foul.

Class 1A state baseball championship

Newman Catholic's Josh Fitzgerald (9) tosses his bat away after hitting a home run during the Class 1A state baseball championship at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

Instead, he stood on second base as McCardle was hit by the pitch and was close to the action as the team celebrated its accomplishment on the dirt between first and second base.

State baseball final

Newman Catholic's Evan Paulus (22), left, reaches to hug teammate Sammy Kratz (12) after winning the state final game at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

“You feel like the hard work paid off,” Fitzgerald said. “You achieved what you wanted and everything, every single day when we tried to get better, it works. It’s awesome to do it for our school and the name on the front of our jersey. I can’t even describe it.”

While the seniors celebrated their final joyous moments as members of the Newman Catholic program, there were plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the future. Eighth-grader Doug Taylor got the start on the mound and pitched very well. Taylor pitched 5 ⅓ innings, allowing four hits and just one run.

Class 1A state baseball championship

Newman Catholic's Doug Taylor (10) throws a pitch during the Class 1A state baseball championship at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

“I hadn’t made a decision until probably 11 to 11:30 last night that we were going to go with Doug,” Bohl said. “For an eighth grader to step up in that situation, against an Alburnett team that has been stroking it, it’s just outstanding. To have him around for four more years makes me a very happy man.”

State baseball final

Alburnett players look on as Newman Catholic celebrates their win during the state final game at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

After reaching his pitch limit, Taylor was removed from the game in the sixth inning. Bohl hugged his pitcher on the mound and Taylor left to a standing ovation from the Newman Catholic crowd. He has watched Newman Catholic win championships for most of his life and was ecstatic to finally get to be a part of the celebration.

“As a kid, when they dog-pile, you just get goosebumps,” Taylor said. “Now, to actually get to do it, it’s a feeling you can’t even describe. It’s just awesome.”

The Knights got on the board in the second inning when senior Jacob Schutt scored on an RBI single from senior Kyle Armour. Jack McGuire also scored in the inning on a sacrifice fly to center field from George Schmit and the Knights took a 2-0 lead.

State baseball final

Newman Catholic players dog pile on top of Merritt McCardle (23) after he is walked to bring in winning run over Alburnett during the state final game at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

The Pirates scored a run in the second, but left two runners in scoring position. The first three batters reached base on a walk and two singles, but Taylor got out of the inning by retiring the top of the Pirates lineup in order. It was the only run Alburnett would get in the game.

After Fitzgerald’s homer put them up 5-1 score, the Knights batted around and scored four more times in the fifth, to go up 9-1. In the sixth inning, Armour led off with a double, eventually scoring on a bases-loaded walk.

The celebration started the very next batter, as McCardle, who set a team record for hit-by-pitches earlier in the year, took a pitch off the body to force in the championship clinching run.

With three straight state titles, the team clinched the first three-peat in Iowa since Martensdale-St. Mary’s pulled off the feat in 2012.

State baseball final

Newman Catholic's Josh Fitzgerald (9) celebrates with teammates as they receive their state champion trophy after winning the state final game over Alburnett, 11-1, at Principal Park in Des Moines, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

For Bohl, the chance to get to send his seniors off with one final championship meant a lot.

“You wouldn’t want it to end any other way,” Bohl said. “For all those seniors, I’m just so happy. We’re going to enjoy this. I’m definitely going to miss them. It actually brings a tear to my eye thinking about what these guys have meant to our program.”

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