Notre Dame baseball team rides ace into district final

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Notre Dame first baseman Jonathan Lynch pumps his fist after driving in Kyle Campbell with a single during the third inning of the Class 3 District 1 semifinals Monday at Notre Dame. The Bulldogs won 3-0. (ADAM VOGLER)

Notre Dame pitcher Cody Heisserer gave a little fist pump after Dexter's Daniel Fitts watched a fastball whiz past to end Monday's Class 3 District 1 baseball semifinal.

Heisserer coolly walked off the mound toward the Bulldogs' dugout as catcher Chase Simmons ran over and offered a hug.

Heisserer had pitched a complete game, but the senior purposely showed little emotion all game.

"That's what got me in trouble the last two games," Heisserer said. "I would get mad and show emotion and it would just go haywire. I was told by the coaches not to do that, just let everything go on by."

Heisserer experienced little trouble against the Bearcats. He struck out 13 and only allowed three hits.

"I think if we go beyond districts, him coming off this game here, he's back to being our bona fide ace, the guy you can run out there and feel like you're going to have a real good chance of winning every time he's out there," Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said. "He showed what he's capable of and why he's co-SEMO Conference player of the year."

Graviett decided to use a different approach to the district tournament this season. He did not pitch Heisserer against Perryville in the semifinals last year, and the Pirates eliminated the Bulldogs.

"Last year we felt like we had to have him to beat Kennett," Graviett said. "We felt Kennett was that talented and we had to have him to even have a chance to beat them. This year I have a lot of confidence in the other guys on our staff. Probably being more scared of Dexter more than anything. I thought they were the hottest team coming into the tournament. I thought they were going to be tough to beat, and they gave us everything we wanted today."

Heisserer admitted to a few nerves before Monday's game, but he never showed it. Nine of the first 12 outs he recorded were by strikeout.

"Fastball and curveball," Notre Dame catcher Chase Simmons said about the pitches that Heisserer leaned on. "Haven't said that much lately. Had a little curveball working today. He did a good job getting ahead, and he hadn't been doing that much."

Simmons picked up his pitcher in the fifth after Heisserer walked the leadoff batter on four pitches. Owen Flowers then stepped in and tried a sacrifice bunt but missed, and Simmons fired to first base to pick off the runner.

"That's huge because I walked him and I'm kind of shook up a little bit," Heisserer said. "Then he gets him out and it just takes the pressure off."

It was one of the few times Heisserer did show emotion on the mound Monday. He pointed at Simmons and shook his head in delight after the out was recorded.

"What we're taught as catchers is if you see a bunt and they miss it, you're looking to throw back-pick, and I just back-picked and it happened to work out," Simmons said. "Cody kind of calmed down after that and was able to throw strikes."

Simmons' play became even more important after Heisserer walked Flowers then Cody Nelson reached on a bunt single. But Heisserer responded with a strikeout and a ground ball to second base to escape the jam.

"You know Heisserer is one of the best pitchers in the state," Dexter coach Brian Becker said. "He threw an outstanding ballgame for them, and he deserved to win."

Notre Dame (21-4) only managed three hits against Dexter pitcher Alex Cliff, but the first one drove in the winning run.

Jonathan Lynch rolled a ball up the middle to the right of second base and just under the second baseman to drive in Kyle Campbell, who had reached on a walk with one out in the third inning.

"I try to look for something to drive early in the count, drive the ball, just get a pitch you can drive," Lynch said. "But then with two strikes, you try to protect the plate and get something in play and get it down and give yourself a chance."

The Bulldogs tacked on another run after Lynch stole second. He crossed the plate after Simmons hit a ground ball that the Dexter shortstop threw away.

Notre Dame added an insurance run in the sixth after Simmons crushed a pitch to the right-center field gap and belly-flopped into third base for a leadoff triple.

"We were chasing out of the zone, and finally he came in the zone and I just put a good swing on it and it hit the gap," Simmons said. "I barely hit the first two, so I told myself stay back. He's an offspeed pitcher, and you've got to realize that."

Courtesy runner Chase Urhahn scored on a sacrifice fly by Heisserer.

The Bulldogs advanced to Wednesday's district title game against second-seeded Kennett. The Indians defeated Ste. Genevieve 5-1 in Monday's other semifinal.

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WP -- Cody Heisserer. LP -- Alex Cliff. 3B -- Chase Simmons (ND). 2B -- Bradley Potts (D). Records -- Notre Dame 21-4.

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