By Josh Brown
TROY — Any number of things happened during Wednesday’s Division IV sectional title game that probably should have broken the Newton baseball team’s spirits.
After trailing 2-0 for most of the game, the third-seeded Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the sixth and scored three runs on balls that never left the infield to claim the lead, then sophomore Treg Jackson pitched a one-two-three seventh to complete the comeback and give Newton (19-9) a 3-2 victory over No. 7 Twin Valley South Wednesday at Duke Park.
“Everyone was popping up or grounding out early in the game. But in that inning, we got some energy and we just found it,” Jackson said. “We found our groove.”
“It takes the entire team,” said Andrew Dilts, who bunted for a game-tying RBI single with the bases loaded and no outs during that sixth-inning rally. “Even the guys that aren’t playing in the game, they’ve got to help keep everyone in it. Everyone got hyped, and we had a lot of energy going.”
Given the fact that the game-winning rally began the same way the first inning did, it made the rally all the more impressive.
Newton loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first after Ryan Mollette drew a leadoff walk and Wade Ferrell and Rhett Gipe hit back-to-back singles. But a foul pop to the catcher, a grounder to short that led to a forceout at home plate and a flyout to center allowed Twin Valley South pitcher Jacob Bassler to escape the inning completely unscathed.
“I’ve seen games like that before,” Newton coach Nathan Kopp said. “We loaded the bases with no one out, and to their credit, South made all the plays, got a couple popups and we got nothing out of it. We’ve ended up losing games that started that way before. You’ve got to take advantage of your chances, because you don’t know if you’ll get another one.
“Up to the sixth inning, South made every play — but then we got another chance. And from there, we did what we like to do.”
From there, the Indians’ chances were few and far between. Gipe reached on a dropped fly ball with two outs in the third but was stranded on second, and Austin Evans led off the fifth with a walk but was doubled off first on a flyout to right field. From the second to fifth innings, those were the only baserunners that Newton could manage.
Twin Valley South, meanwhile, had runners on in each of the first six innings, but Newton starter Jackson proved up to the task in most of those situations, allowing only four hits in the game. The Panthers left seven runners on base through the first six innings, two of them in scoring position.
But the Panthers made two of those hits count in the top of the third. After Jared Cottingim drew a one-out walk and was bunted to second, Bassler drove an RBI double to the gap in left-center for the game’s first run. Cody Roell followed with an infield single up the middle, and a mishandled ball allowed the second run to come home and give South an early 2-0 lead.
Jackson finished allowing four walks and four hits in the game while striking out eight.
“I thought about putting Bassler on in that situation,” Kopp said. “But their best hitter got an RBI double, and then the next run was unearned. Other than that, Treg pitched well. A couple walks, eight strikeouts, only four hits — he threw a really good game.”
And in the bottom of the sixth, the Indians found that groove.
Ferrell drew a four-pitch walk to lead off, and Gipe followed with a single. Clymer laid down a bunt that was mishandled by the catcher to load the bases with no outs, and, with the infield drawn in, Bryan Delcamp hit a sharp grounder to short. The shortstop double-clutched getting the ball out of his glove, though, and he had nowhere to go with it, allowing the Indians’ first run to score.
Then Dilts — who had more than 20 bunts for hits during the course of the season — bunted for a single down the third base line to tie the score at 2-2.
“It was really intense,” he said. “Throughout the season, I’ve had a bunch of practice doing it. I just went up with the same mindset I always do. I wasn’t thinking about the situation or anything, I just did what I always do.”
After a flyout to right field for the first out, Austin Evans dropped down a suicide squeeze bunt that brought home the go-ahead run, and in the blink of an eye Newton was carrying a 3-2 lead into the top of the seventh.
“We had a pinch runner, Noah Williams on third, but he knew the situation and what to do in it,” Kopp said. “Austin got that bunt down and Noah was already going, and we got that run in. We go into that inning down 2-0, only to go up 3-2 with three more outs to go and we’re on to the district final.”
Jackson got those three outs quickly, getting a pop to short and groundouts to third and second for his only one-two-three inning of the game.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, but I trusted my defense,” Jackson said. “I knew even if they hit the ball, the defense would make the plays behind me.”
“That’s what a sectional final looks like,” Kopp said. “It was just a good game, and the guys hung in there and played all seven innings.”
It was Newton’s second straight sectional title — the Indians defeated Tri-Village 4-0 last season before falling 3-2 to Russia.
Newton will now face Triad, which defeated Fort Loramie 4-0, Friday at Centerville High School in the district final.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.