DES MOINES — Lucas Bixby snatched the trophy, raised it above his head emphatically and pointed it toward the direction of the Central DeWitt fan base.
It was not the piece of hardware Bixby and his teammates aspired for Saturday evening. Still, it was a trophy that signaled a memorable season for Central DeWitt’s baseball program.
Top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier spoiled the storybook ending.
The Saints scored five runs with two outs, three in the first inning, on their way to an 8-1 victory in the Class 3A title game at Principal Park.
“We made history,” Central DeWitt shortstop Devin Hurdle said. “We can’t hang our heads that we lost this game. We’ve never done this before, and we had a blast this season.”
So when the Sabers received their awards from the Iowa High School Athletic Association, they did so with pride. Bixby lifted the trophy. Garrett Finley, another senior, raised the state runner-up banner.
Central DeWitt, in its first title game, finished with a school-record 38 wins versus four losses.
“That meant the world to us,” Finley said. “We worked our tails off for five years to get to this point. We wanted to make an impact in the community that can last forever, and that’s what us seniors did."
Xavier (41-2) was just too good.
Senior southpaw Bryson Bastian struck out 12 and scattered only four hits to improve to 11-0 on the season. Bastian, in particular, had the Sabers baffled with his breaking ball.
“(His breaking ball) dropped off the table,” Bixby said. “It was nothing too overpowering, but we still couldn’t hit it.”
Bastian has been dominant all season with an ERA under 0.85 against a rugged schedule. He blanked 4A state semifinalist Iowa City West and stymied 4A state qualifier Western Dubuque.
“He was sharp and so good today,” said Xavier coach Dan Halter, whose program claimed its first state title since 2006. “He’s such a tough kid, such a competitor.”
Xavier compiled only 12 total hits in the quarterfinal and semifinal wins over ADM (Adel) and Marion. It equaled that against Central DeWitt.
The Saints, who came in hitting .347 as a squad, tagged Bixby for nine hits in four innings.
After Bixby set down Xavier’s first two batters in the opening frame, the next five hitters reached. Halter’s team was 7-for-11 in the game with two outs.
"That's been a key for us all year," Halter said. "All coaches know when you're on the wrong end of it, that can be deflating. When you're on the right end of it, it is such a boost."
Central DeWitt coach Shane Sikkema shouldered some of the blame.
“We’d get two outs and then we struggled a little bit with pitch location,” Sikkema said. “Maybe I should have gone with a guy who was a little fresher on the mound.”
Bixby (8-1) threw 66 pitches in Tuesday’s quarterfinal win over Centerville. The right-hander said he felt strong.
“They read the scouting report and knew I liked to work away,” Bixby said. “They were hitting everything to the (opposite) field. That was definitely one of the best hitting teams we’ve seen.
“They got here for a reason, and hitting was a big reason why.”
Other than a 1-2-3 second inning, Xavier had traffic on the bases in every inning. It scored twice in the fourth and added two more in the fifth.
“We were locked in right away and hit it early,” Halter said.
Xavier lost in the district final to Central DeWitt last season. It used that disappointment as motivation all season to finish off a 2018-19 athletic year with state titles in football and baseball.
"Our guys never got complacent or satisfied," Halter said.
Central DeWitt’s lone run came in the third. After Hurdle led off with a walk, Finley brought him home with a double into the left-field corner.
Otherwise, the Sabers had little to cheer about. Bastian retired the game’s final nine hitters.
Central DeWitt was just more than 24 hours removed from an emotionally charged semifinal win over local rival Davenport Assumption.
"We might not have been as overzealous because of the local rivalry with Davenport Assumption, but when you play great schools you've got to be ready to go," Sikkema said. "It comes back on me having them prepared."
Still, Saturday’s result wasn’t what the Sabers were going to remember.
“The season isn’t defined by one game,” Finley said. “Just because we lost that last one, it doesn’t take away from what we did. Everybody down in that clubhouse is happy about what we did.”