Tigers claim LHC title in sweep of Cards
GRINNELL — The heat was on the Newton baseball team Monday night with 90-plus degree temperatures and the pressure of playing for a conference title, but the Cardinals weren’t able to beat that heat.
Playing in two rather similar games, Newton was edged out by now-Little Hawkeye Champion and Class 3A No. 4 Grinnell by identical scores of 3-1 in a doubleheader in Grinnell that was rescheduled from a rainout last Friday.
“We had the opportunity to play for a conference championship, but we couldn’t get it done,” Newton coach Jim Marter said. “Hats off to Grinnell, they played well and their pitching was a little too much for us. It was fun to get into this position and obviously it’s tough to lose, but we have to look forward and accomplish some new goals.”
Grinnell starting pitcher Eli Dunne, who missed his previous start against Newton with an injury, simply stifled the Cardinals’ (14-14, 11-6) bats in game 1. With the Tigers leading 2-0 going into the third, Newton senior Nick Vander Wilt led off with a single before moving to third on a single from junior Andrew Clements and scoring Newton’s only run of the game on a Grinnell throwing error.
From that point on, however, Dunne held the Cards to just one hit and racked up four 1-2-3 innings in the game. Newton starter Brian Rose held his own, but the Tigers scrapped in three runs to keep a steady lead and ended the game with some defense as a screaming line drive by senior Nick Pletcher was caught by the first baseman, who then doubled-up junior Jacob Marter on the basepath.
“The Dunne kid is the real deal,” Marter said. “He’s a legit No. 1 pitcher and he had us locked up. Rosey pitched well too. He struggled with his control early, and they got a few runs on us and we just couldn’t do anything.”
Neither team exactly came out swinging in game 2, although the Cards had a few more baserunners than they did in game 1. Still, Grinnell got on the board first when senior Dillon Gretzky reached on an error in the third, then added another when junior Ryan Davis channeled his inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez and stole home in the fourth.
The Cards left runners stranded in scoring position in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings and just couldn’t seem to get a ball past the Grinnell defense. When Davis added the Tigers’ third run in the fifth, it seemed like a hard road to climb for Newton, which needed a win to earn at least a share of the Little Hawkeye Conference title.
“It just seems like every ball we hit hard was hit right at somebody,” Marter said. “Pletch hit that ball on the screws to end that first game. We hit the ball hard and they bled a few runs in, so it was just one of those nights that didn’t go our way.”
Shades of the Cardinals’ three-run comeback in the seventh inning on June 13 began to pop up when they started getting some offense going in the seventh inning on Monday. Senior Kole Wilson led off with a walk, which chased starter Jordan Ely from the game, and Clements came up with a single two at-bats later. Senior Blake Tish then delivered the Cards’ only RBI hit of the day with a single up the middle, but the Tiger defense responded with a pro-style 4-6-3 double play to end the night.
Newton now turns its attention to Pella Christian and the opportunity to lock up second place in the conference. The Cardinals will face a number of non-conference opponents after that, hoping to prepare for another strong postseason run against some tough competition that could begin with Marshalltown yet again.
“We’ve got some non-conference games to hopefully get our pitching rotation where we want it, and we’re shooting for second place in the conference,” Marter said. “In districts, we’re shooting for a similar lineup as we had last year. Hopefully we can finish what we quite didn’t finish last year.”
Grinnell 3, Newton 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
N _ 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 3
G _ 1 1 0 0 0 0 X 3 6 1
WP: Dunne, LP: Rose 4-3 (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 7 K, 2 BB)
Grinnell 2, Newton 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
N _ 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 3 3
G _ 0 0 1 1 1 0 X 3 7 0
WP: Ely, LP: Wrage 3-2 (3 1/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2BB, 2 K)