Newton baseball gets 5-4 win over Arcanum to stay in hunt for league title

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PLEASANT HILL – It was a must win baseball game for both teams as Newton hosted Arcanum in a WOAC game with league implications on Thursday night.  Once again pitching was key with two sophomore hurlers among the best in the conference going head-to-head.  Newton would come from behind with a big five run 4th inning, then held off Arcanum for a 5-4 win.

An Arcanum win would have assured them at least a share of a WOAC title … but now at 8-2 in the conference they will need some help.  Dixie at 8-1 has one league game remaining and it will be at Newton on Thursday May 9th . A win by the Greyhounds would give them a league championship.

Newton now 7-1 in the conference needed the win to stay in the hunt with two league games remaining.  They will need a win on Monday night at Tri-Village to set-up a winner takes all showdown with Dixie next Thursday.

Arcanum put some pressure early on in the first and second inning leaving the bases loaded in the first inning with Austin Tippie getting a big strikeout to end the first and against with runners at second and third in the second inning Tippie again got a big strikeout to avoid damage.

Caleb Burke drove in the 1st run of the game. (Dale Barger photo)

But Arcanum struck paydirt in the third inning scoring two runs.  Regan Christ singled to start and then stole second base.  He advanced to third on a single by Bryce Kramer to right field.

Caleb Burke hit a fielder’s choice with all runners being safe while scoring Christ and Kramer going to third and Burke on first to give Arcanum a 1-0 lead.

Freshman Luke Stephens then grounded to first to score Kramer and Burke advanced to second base with just one out and Arcanum leading 2-0 with one out.

Luke Miller followed with a hard-hit ground ball that was an error giving Arcanum runners at first and third.

Kolton Quigney grounded out to first base, but Kramer was held at third while Miller advanced to second.

Dakota Kendig grounded out to second base to end the inning with two runners on.

A big fourth inning by Newton would end up being just enough for the Indians to hold on for a win.  After Rhett Koffer drew a walk, Cole Alexander singled to center to give the Indians runners at first and second base.

Pitcher Austin Tippie followed with a line-drive double scoring Koffer and Alexander to tie the game at 2-2.

Will Bowser hits a single to move a runner to help the Indians with a big 5 run inning in game against Arcanum. (Dale Barger photo)

Regan Christ would strike out Ty Schauer but Will Bowser single to shortstop and Tippie advanced to third.

Then on a hit and run senior Brady Downing hit a ball to the right side where second baseman Seth Fearon was moving to cover the base with the runner moving from first.  He had to dive to stop the ball from going into the outfield and it was good enough to score Tippie and the Indians still had runners at first and second with just one out, now leading 3-2.

Christ coaxed a ground out on the next batter, but Bowser went to third and Downing advanced to second base.

Ridge Gray then connected on a fly ball that looked like it was going to be caught by a hard charging center fielder Derek Longstreth who dove for the ball and he had it in his glove looking like the Trojans would escape with no more damage.  However, after hitting the turf the ball jarred loose allowing Bowser and Downing to score and Newton moved ahead 5-2.

The Trojans got one back at the top of the fifth inning after Caleb Burke singled and later scored on a Lucas Miller hit and they would trail 5-3.  It would remain that way heading into the top of the seventh inning with Arcanum having one last chance needing two runs to tie.

Lucas Miller drew a walk to start, followed by a fly-out and a sacrifice bunt by Dakota Kendig moving Miller to second but Kendig was out at first and the Trojans were down to their last out.

Derek Longstreth singled up the middle to center field to score Miller and now the Trojans were down 5-4 with the tying run on first and possible winning run at the plate.

Baseball is all about drama and there was plenty as freshman relief pitcher Cole Alexander would square off with sophomore Ethan Kearney.  Kearny would make good contact sending a deep fly ball to right field … but Ridge Gray was able to settle under it and snatch it for the final out giving Newton a dramatic home win 5-4.

Right fielder Ridge Gray had a number of good catches including the final out of the game to give Newton a big 5-4 win over Arcanum. (Dale Barger photo)

Arcanum coach Randy Baker felt good about his team and their chances with Regan Christ on the hill … but knew they let one get away.

“I thought we left a lot of runners on base, in the first two inning leaving two guys on third and second base and then the bases loaded, one hit here or there opens things up a little bit more and with Reagan on the mound with four or five runs he’s hard to beat at that point,” Baker explained.

“Give them credit they just put the ball in play even little flare hits here and there sometimes makes the difference, baseball is a funny game, you stick your bat out and something good might happen, they hit one to short center our guy dove and almost made the catch to get us out of that inning but instead of it being 3-2 it’s 5-2 and it’s a different game, they had the big hits,” Baker added.

Freshman Luke Stephens got his bat on the ball good enough to generate an RBI for the Trojans. (Dale Barger photo)

Arcanum still fought their way back and had an opportunity to tie or retake the lead in the top of the seventh inning.

“We battled and didn’t quit and still had a chance at the end I give our guys a lot of credit. I’m very proud of our team and then told them it’s time to start our second season.  Our first season it to go win the league, our second season starts Saturday working to get prepared for the tournament,” Baker concluded.

Newton coach Jordan Kopp knew coming in it was going to be a battle and he talked to his team about that before the game.

Newton baseball coach Jordan Kopp addresses his team after big win over Arcanum. (Dale Barger photo)

“I told the guys before the game, it’s going be a long game, there’s going to be some peaks and valleys. And that’s exactly what there was, we try and really preach just to kind of stay level and not give up the beginning and we did it,” Kopp stated.

It would have been easy for Newton to get flustered with Arcanum getting runners on base in the first three innings, scoring two runs early.  But they stayed calm and worked through it.

“You got to see two of the top pitchers in the league, both sophomores and both just phenomenal pitchers,” Klopp praised on pitchers Austin Tippie & Regan Christ.

“Tippie didn’t have his best stuff tonight up on the mountain, but man he competed giving us a chance and keeping us in the game by going five innings for what it’s worth,” Kopp said.

Sophomore pitcher Austin Tippie held it together after getting into trouble early and got help from his teammates in the 4th inning to get a big win over Arcanum. (Dale Barger photo)

Kopp would also get a good relief performance from freshman pitcher Cole Alexander.

“He’s young an up-and-coming kid, he’s going to be a dominant pitcher, he didn’t overpower them tonight, he just pounded the zone and gave us a chance,” Kopp would acknowledge.

Freshman pitcher Cole Alexander did his job in relief getting the save for Newton’s 17 win over the season. (Dale Barger photo)

“They got up early on us, but we finally had our opportunity, and you know, maybe we didn’t hit the ball the hardest, every at bat. But things kind of fell in place. They made a couple mistakes, we executed and took advantage, and I told the guys, its baseball,” Kopp added.

It was a beautiful 80-degree evening and plenty of reason for people to come out and watch a key WOAC game.

“How about the atmosphere,” Kopp said.   “We’re very privileged to have just an awesome facility, and people like to come watch games here, kudos to our community … and their community for showing up on a nice night to support their teams,” Kopp praised.

The win was big for Newton as it kept their chances of winning a league title alive and one that coach Kopp and team is thankful for.

“You know, I’m just really proud of our guys. And the thing I told them, the job’s not done

we’re here to win a conference title, obviously we needed this one or it doesn’t matter but we’ve got two games left,” Kopp commented.

“I’m really excited for our kids to experience this. I would guess a lot of people were doubting us early, after you lose your number one starter from last year along with a handful of key contributors.  We’re really young, starting four sophomores, a freshman, a couple of juniors and two seniors.  I’m just really happy our kids got the opportunity to compete here tonight for what was on the line and if they keep competing up to next Thursday to get their shot.”

“It’s not something that was given to them, they’ve worked really hard. They’ve been extremely consistent and through my coaching days here no one has had that kind of  consistency, it is really big, and our guys do a really good job,” Kopp concluded.

Newton has a conference game with Tri-Village Monday.  If they win they will host Dixie on Thursday May 9th for a conference title. (Dale Barger photo)