DES MOINES — It takes a sharp team to contend for a state baseball championship.

Don Bosco simply made too many mistakes, while Mason City Newman showcased the excellence that has dodged a litany of single-elimination tournament upset bids during a 10-0, mercy-rule victory Thursday afternoon in the Class 1A state semifinals. The Knights (37-3) will return to Principal Park for their third consecutive title game at 11 a.m. Saturday as they attempt to extend their championship streak to three.

“We’re just winners,” Newman senior Josh Fitzgerald said. “At the end of the day we want to hunt a championship and get better every single day. We’re so determined just to get better and hopefully get back to where we belong, which is the last game of the year.”

While Newman pitcher Evan Paulus was intentionally walked three times out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup, Fitzgerald couldn’t be ignored. The Knights’ leadoff batter finished 4-for-4 with a double, two triples, four runs scored and three batted in.

Fitzgerald’s first two triples flew high and deep into the outfield, and Don Bosco’s center fielder lost the ball in the sun. He then laid a perfectly executed bunt down the third base line before drilling a double off the left field fence.

“I hit the first two pretty hard so I was like, ‘They’re probably not going to expect a bunt here,’” Fitzgerald said, addressing the versatility he demonstrated. “Everyone seems to think of us as a power hitting, double, home run team, but every single day in practice we do bunting drills because this is when it matters. We take so much pride in the small ball.”

Don Bosco (29-5) missed out on an opportunity to score the game’s first run and quickly found itself in a four-run hole after two innings. Dons leadoff hitter Kendall Becker reached on an error and Cael Frost added a first-inning single, but Bryce Schares struck out and Becker was picked off second base before Lewis Havel’s bunt was fielded to end the threat.

Don Bosco tallied just three more hits over the next four innings and had only two runners reach scoring position as Paulus pitched a five-inning shutout with five strikeouts versus one walk.

“I’ve played with Evan,” said Don Bosco catcher and pitcher Bryce Schares, who has family members on Newman’s team. “Caught him when I was in sixth or eighth grade, and already knew it was going to be a challenge for us. When you don’t come mentally prepared against a guy like that, you’re going to get shut down pretty fast.”

Newman’s No. 8 hitter Doug Taylor added two hits and was followed by George Schmidt with two of his own as the Knights’ potent lineup exploited any opening in Don Bosco’s defense from top to bottom. Four runs were scored off Havel before Newman tallied six over the final two innings against Schares.

“It’s Newman, man,” Bryce Schares acknowledged afterward. “The scoreboard said what? Twelve hits. That’s hard to beat.”

Nearly one week removed from his team’s Friday victory over Coon Rapids-Bayard in the Class 1A state quarterfinals, Don Bosco coach Joel Schares felt his team wasn’t able to match what it had showed in the practices leading up to this game.

“We didn’t play very well and when you’re playing a team as good as Newman is, and they’ve got it down here, they know what they’re doing,” Joel Schares said. “We needed to have a better first two innings and obviously that was the start of the poor game for us.”

For a Don Bosco baseball program that has reached the state tournament three of the past four years, there’s still plenty of reasons for optimism.

“It’s nice to see all of the young guys develop over the course of the season,” Joel Schares said. “We had four or five underclassmen out there today so we think our future is bright.”

Bryce Schares and Becker were the lone seniors in Don Bosoco’s starting lineup as their memorable prep careers came to an end.

“This is probably the funnest summer I’ve had,” Bryce Shares said. “This was the best experience of my life, quite frankly.”

Newman 10, Don Bosco 0

Don Bosco 000 00 — 0 4 0

Newman 220 33 — 10 12 2

Lewis Havel, Bryce Schares (3) and Schares, Cedric Yoder (3). Evan Paulus and Max Burt. WP — Evan Paulus (8-1). LP — Havel (5-1). 2B — Burt, Doug Taylor Josh Fitzgerald (MCN). 3B — Josh Fitzgerald 2 (MCN).

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