WASHINGTON, Iowa — All season, people have said that as long as the Davenport Assumption baseball team could hit just a little, it would be fine.
The No. 1-ranked Knights have three pitchers who are committed to Division I programs and a solid defense. All they need is a little offense.
They got more than a little Wednesday night, bashing a highly regarded pitcher like he’s never been bashed before on the way to an 11-1 victory over Fairfield and a berth in the Class 3A state tournament next week in Des Moines.
Fairfield’s Cameron Baumann, who has signed to play at Iowa next year, had allowed only eight earned runs all season but the Knights (38-5) got to him for four earned runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth to break open a close game.
“I just preach we’ve got to hit strikes,’’ Assumption coach Billy Argo said. “If we get that pitcher deep into his pitch count and wear him down a little then that’s to our advantage.
“There seems to be more of a sense of urgency, which is comforting for me,’’ Argo added. “About two weeks ago I was doubting that at times.’’
It would be understandable if Argo had a few doubts early in Wednesday’s game after Fairfield’s second hitter, Hunter Hoskins, lashed a pitch from Assumption southpaw Ben Beutel over the center-field fence to give the Trojans (26-12) a brief 1-0 lead.
Beutel, a Bowling Green recruit who allowed only three hits and finished the game with 13 strikeouts, didn’t seem too bothered. He said he simply told himself “Don’t leave it there again.
“I left a mistake over the plate and he made me pay for it,’’ he added.
Assumption scratched out a run in the bottom of the inning with the help of an error and the game settled into the expected Baumann-Beutel duel.
But the Knights learned from what they saw from Baumann the first time through the batting order and did much better the second time through.
“Guys started making a lot of adjustments to what he was doing …’’ Assumption third baseman Daniel Powers said. “As the game got later, he wasn’t able to locate it for strikes as much so guys started laying off it a little bit and we were able to get hitter’s counts.’’
Trenton Wallace worked Baumann for a walk to open the fourth inning and Nolan Melchert was hit by a 1-2 pitch. Tavien Gillette beat out an infield single to load the bases and it was left to Powers to unload them.
His sharp single up the middle brought in two runs and Justus Burke followed with a line drive double into the right-field corner to bring in two more runs and give the Knights a 5-1 lead.
The onslaught continued in the fifth as a Luke Fennelly double, a Wallace single, a Gillette single, a Donoven Juarez walk and another Burke double produced four more runs, chasing Baumann.
“We just finally started putting runs across because we believed in ourselves and believed in our hitting,’’ said Burke, who was one of two Assumption players (with Powers) to drive in three runs.
The rout became complete in the sixth when Fennelly bashed a pitch over the left-field fence for his first home run of the season and the Knights tacked on one more run via an error.
Afterward, there was some celebrating for Assumption’s first state berth since winning the 3A state title in 2014, but not as much as you might expect. The Knights have larger aspirations.
“We expected this,’’ Powers said, “Cam threw a really good game but we fought our butts off. I thought our pitching was great. Ben did great and our bats came along later in the game. It was great to see the team come together after getting down early.’’
Argo admitted to being a bit relieved. Each of the past two years, his team faced a Division I lefthander in the substate and lost. Central DeWitt’s T.J. Sikkema, now at the University of Missouri, ended the Knights’ season both times.
Argo had visions of Baumann possibly doing the same thing.
“Three D-I lefties in three years,’’ he said. “But we had a D-I lefty on our mound tonight, too.’’