FOREST CITY | One of the characteristics of the Newman Catholic baseball team’s success over the years has been the ability to develop a deep pitching staff.
That practice was put to the test in Wednesday's completion of a Class 1A substate final that started on Tuesday before being suspended by rain after three innings of play and ultimately relocated from Clear Lake to Forest City.
With the new pitch count rules in effect this season, neither Evan Paulus nor Chase Hatten — Newman’s and Bishop Garrigan’s starting pitchers on Tuesday — were eligible to take the mound on Wednesday, so Caden Kratz took over for the Knights and shut down the Golden Bears in a 5-1 Newman victory that secured the Knights’ 21st trip to the state baseball tournament.
“The only reason we were in this position was because my assistant coaches told me on Saturday that they wanted Caden ready for this,” Newman coach Alex Bohl said. “Evan and Caden both battled.”
Thanks in large part to a bases-loaded double by Matthew Fitzsimmons in the first inning on Tuesday, the Knights clung to a 4-1 lead when the game was resumed on Wednesday.
Neither team was able to string together much on the offensive end as Kratz and Joel Vaske for Bishop Garrigan both took care of business on the mound.
Kratz had to pitch his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, but the junior righthander struck out 10 over four innings of work.
Vaske was nearly as effective as he was touched for one unearned run in the fifth, but the Newman margin entering play on Wednesday proved too great for the Golden Bears to overcome.
Merritt McCardle had a pair of singles and drove in one for the Newman offense.
Fitzsimmons drove in three with the only extra-base hit of the contest.
Newman (32-3) enters the Class 1A tournament as the top seed and will play at 11 a.m. against CAM (Anita) on Friday at Principal Park in Des Moines.
The Knights will be riding an eight-game winning streak and have won 14 of their last 15 outings.
“We need to focus on the season as a whole,” Bohl said. “We play the game to achieve our goal, and that is to be the state champion.”