CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Ryan Flaherty put in a long day at work.
After about 120 pitches and nine innings on the mound, his Saints teammates helped reward him for a job well done.
Xavier capitalized on an extra-base hit and a fielding miscue in the bottom of the ninth to beat Dubuque Wahlert, 1-0, finishing a Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader sweep at Ken Charipar Field. The Saints won the opener, 8-1.
Flaherty’s complete game was his first nine-inning performance in a single outing. His competitive nature kept him on the mound, knowing even though Xavier Coach Dave Schemmel said the ninth was likely his last.
“I like to go deep in games,” said Flaherty, who improved to 4-2. “I wanted to keep it going and complete it.”
Flaherty scattered five hits to just three Wahlert hitters. He was not thrilled with how he threw early in the game, relying mainly on a fastball. He was more comfortable after a midgame adjustment.
“I didn’t like the way it was coming out,” said Flaherty, who grabbed a bullpen catcher to throw about the fifth inning. “I was able to throw a few off-speed pitches and figured out my grip and release point.”
The Golden Eagles (19-19, 12-14) advanced a runner to third with less than two out twice but Flaherty thwarted the threats. Schemmel said Flaherty is efficient and is most effective when defense makes plays behind him.
“He has had some pretty nice outings this year,” Schemmel said. “He doesn’t walk too many guys and keeps it in play.
“He usually doesn’t make too many mistakes. He had a good ballgame.”
The Saints (20-17, 13-13) finally got him some support in the ninth. Nolan Arp led off with the game’s only double, ripping the first pitch the opposite way down the left-field line. He expected a fastball and pounced on it.
“You usually don’t see much off-speed with the first pitch in the nine spot,” Arp said. “I was lucky it stayed fair. I was a little late on it.”
Bryce Grimm popped up a bunt in front of the mound, but hustled down the line, causing reliever Gunner Lange to sail a throw into right field.
Courtesy runner John Schmidt, in for Arp, rounded third hard and coasted home.
“It worked out for us,” Schemmel said. “He placed it just right so they did have to hurry. When you hurry and are a new pitcher, it’s tough.”
Logan Clarahan and Colin O’Connell led the Saints in the nightcap with two hits apiece.
Xavier took sole possession of second place in the MVC Valley Division, finishing behind Cedar Falls. The Saints received a boost, heading into the postseason with a possible district-final foe.
“I’m not going to say no to two wins against a very good team,” Flaherty said. “It gives us a lot of confidence.”
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