FORT MADISON — Nic Reemtsma took the mound in the first inning with the lead, and the Central DeWitt freshman pitcher used that as fuel.
"When I pitch with a lead, I'm pretty dominant," Reemtsma said.
He was right.
Reemtsma allowed just five hits over 5.2 shutout innings, and the Sabers took a 5-1 win over Fort Madison in Monday's Class 3A substate semifinal.
Central DeWitt (22-15), the third seed in the substate, advanced to Wednesday's 7 p.m. final against top seed Davenport Assumption.
What Reemtsma did didn't surprise Central DeWitt coach Shane Sikkema.
"That’s Nic Reemtsma," Sikkema said. "He’s got the velo, he’s got the curve, he’s got the change-up. He’s a three-pitch pitcher, and tonight was an example of how good his future looks."
"My whole life, I’ve pitched with a lot of confidence," Reemtsma said.
Reemtsma (3-2) struck out four — three in the second inning — and kept the Bloodhounds (25-9) off-balance until they loaded the bases in the sixth inning to end his night.
"My fastball/change-up combo was pretty good," Reemtsma said. "I was really pounding the zone, trying to get first-pitch strikes."
It was all about trust in his defense, Reemtsma said.
"Those guys give me all of the confidence in the world," he said. "They’re great teammates."
Reemtsma's best inning was in the fourth, when he needed just five pitches to retire the side.
"Like I said, I trust those guys," Reemtsma said. "They're great defensively."
"Their pitcher threw the ball really well," Fort Madison coach Ron Walker said. "He mixed up his pitches well."
The Sabers had a noisy first inning. Boomer Johnson, the second hitter, drove a home run to deep center field for a 1-0 lead.
Every ball the Sabers hit was with solid contact.
"We just needed to not everything at them," Sikkema said, laughing. "But that was a good inning."
Central DeWitt added a run in the second when Jacob Maher scored on a wild pitch, then Maher's home run nearly in the same spot as Johnson's gave the Sabers a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
"We jumped on some fastballs, hit them hard," Sikkema said. "Obviously took advantage of some small portions (of the ballpark) here, and that gave us a lot of confidence. And it gave Nic a lot of confidence.
Kaiden Muhl scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, and then Muhl scored on Kyle Bixby's single in the seventh for the Sabers' final run.
Fort Madison had three consecutive singles off Reemtsma in the sixth, and after getting Kane Williams on an infield pop-up for the second out, Reemtsma's night was done. Reliever Noah Thein got Reiburn Turnbull on a fly out to left field to end the inning.
The Bloodhounds got their only run in the seventh when Jason Thurman's single scored Colton Engeman.
"We had chances, and that’s what I told our guys," Walker said. "We’re down 5-0, we’re playing on our home field, our guys competed. We just tried to keep it close, keep competing."
The Sabers, though, are one game from the state tournament, thanks to a confident freshman.
"We’ve got to keep playing the way we do," Sikkema said.