Newton’s baseball team didn’t get off to much of a start in Derby, but the way it finished made for a celebration at the end of the night.
The Railers dropped the first game of a doubleheader 8-1 and narrowly avoided a shutout by pushing across a run in the final inning. But Game 2 saw Newton give up the lead twice before claiming victory for good in an emotional 11-9 win.
Derby’s Nick Watson dominated with six shutout innings in the Game 1 win. He allowed just two hits and got out of jams by leaving the bases loaded in the first and fifth innings.
“Nick had a rough outing his last time out, and it was good to have him back on the mound throwing well,” Derby coach Todd Olmstead said. “They’re 5-1, and they’ve beat some good clubs already. I thought we pitched well enough to keep their hitters off balance the first game.”
After the 7-run loss, Newton retreated to the right field fence in between games. Coach Mark George said he knew his team was better than that loss.
“I’ll be honest, we got punched in the face that first game,” he said. “We got slapped around in the face and we got punched at times in this game, and for my guys to sit there and bounce back and lift themselves off the ground – I’m so proud of them. All I can say to them is how proud I am to be their coach.”
Newton had leads of 3-1 and 7-5 and lost both of them in the second game. Each time the Railers responded by reclaiming the lead. The final rally in the top of the seventh was highlighted by Austin Grounau’s two-run, two-out double that found the gap in right-center field.
“We just had to clear our minds and focus at the plate, mostly,” Grounau said. “We had to clear our heads, use (the Game 1 loss) as motivation and then flush it.”
Grounau walked three times in the first game and had what looked to be a bloop single stolen away by a diving catch by Derby left fielder Doug Rhodes.
In the second game Grounau watched called third strikes go by with runners in scoring position in back-to-back at bats, and the missed opportunities allowed Derby to stay in the game.
“Overall it wasn’t a good day at the plate for me,” Grounau said. “But who cares with a hit like that at the end?”
Newton used four pitchers in the Game 2 win. Starter Garret Davis gave the team four quality innings, allowing one unearned run on five hits. But relievers Gunar Drinnen and Reagan McCloud each gave up four-run innings during Derby’s frenzied comeback attempts.
Trailing 3-1 entering the fifth, Derby’s lineup hit for the cycle in just five batters to start the first rally. Travis Young led off with a home run, Nate Crossman followed with a triple and David Tullis drove in Crossman on a double. After a strikeout, Alex Whiteman and Aaron Cheatham hit back-to-back singles. Rhodes followed with an RBI double for a 5-3 lead.
Back-to-back two-run doubles from Cole Sturgeon and Cody Stineman gave Newton the lead again in the top of the sixth. Derby again responded in the bottom of the inning with four more runs, capped by Crossman’s two-run homer. Crossman finished the day 5 for 8.
But Newton strung together the last rally for the win. The Railers were down to their final out when Grounau’s two-RBI double turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead. Reliever Ben Wright threw a perfect seventh inning, finishing off Crossman with a called third strike to seal the win.
Emotions ran high throughout the night and especially in the second game when both teams barked at each other and Derby’s Young wrapped up his home run trot with a salute directed toward the Newton bench.
“I don’t like when it becomes personal like that,” Olmstead said. “But I don’t mind jawing with them, and I get fired up with that.”
George said he prefers his players to avoid the emotional swings of the game.
“I don’t like my guys being high and being low, because I don’t think that’s very conducive for the game of baseball because it can change so fast,” he said. “I need my guys to be steady. Steadily climbing, is what we talk about. When we’re up and down, we can fall immediately.”
Derby 8, Newton 1
W — Watson. L — Burbink.
Newton 11, Derby 9
W — McCloud. L — Spillman. S — Wright. HR – Derby, Travis Young, Nate Crossman.