Close ballgames demand teams be crisp and clean in every phase of play.
Wednesday night rivals the Newton Senior High Cardinals and the Pella Community High’s Little Dutch faced off in a Little Hawkeye Conference doubleheader at Newton’s Eversman Field. Both teams had solid pitching and played sterling defense in two seven-inning contests.
The outcomes of the two contests were determined by key hits. Newton got the key hit in the opener to win 3-0. Pella had two triples in the second game that powered it to a 3-0 victory.
Newton goes to 14-14 on the season and 9-7 in conference play with five regular-season games remaining. Pella is 12-16 overall and 8-9 in Little Hawkeye play.
The Cardinals travel to Saydel tonight at 7:30 and play their final home game against Norwalk, which leads the conference, on Monday.
Newton scored a run in the first inning of the opener. Taylor Field, who was the Cardinals’ starting pitcher, had a one-out infield single. Tyler Woods’ sacrifice bunt had Field on the move.
Field scampered all the way to third and scored when an errant Little Dutch throw went over the third baseman’s head. The score remained 1-0 until the sixth inning.
Jeff Stanton drew a leadoff walk for the Cards and it was Chandler Sturtz’ job to move him over to second.
“We needed to get Jeff moved and I knew that. I failed on the first two times to get the bunt down. Coach put on the bunt for a third time even with two strikes on me,” Sturtz said after the game. “I was able to get it down and beat it out for a hit.”
Wood’s fielder’s choice put runners at first and third with two gone in the inning. Senior shortstop Jacob Hill got the job done.
“I had two strikes on me and I was expecting him (Pella’s pitcher Jacob Gleason) to throw a curve ball. I just looked for it in the zone,” Hill said. Hill made the connection and smashed a two-run base hit to left field.
Field had pitched five scoreless innings for Newton, limiting the Little Dutch to two hits, walking two and striking out three batters. Derek Wrage came on in relief and closed the game out.
Wrage worked around two singles in the sixth without allowing a run. He worked a 1-2-3 seventh on the mound. A diving catch by NHS center fielder Levi Michener ended the contest.
“It’s huge for us. We’re on a three-game win streak and it was a conference game,” Sturtz said.
“We played a clean defensive game and our pitchers did a good job of throwing lots of strikes,” Hill said.
Sturtz, Field, Wood and Hill each had a single in the game.
Pella’s Tanner Wood kept the Cardinal bats in check during the second game. Newton had three singles — one each by Evan Shimon, Hill and Wood.
Newton’s Michael Barr threw five strong innings, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out three. Wood pitched two innings, allowing one run on two hits and struck out two.
“We didn’t have an error all night. You can’t ask much more of your defense,” said Pat Riley, Cardinal co-coach. “We had the key hit in the first game and they had a couple of key hits, especially the triple to lead off the game to set the tone.”
Ryan Shull tripled for Pella and scored in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Langenfeld. Shull drew a one-out walk in the third and came home on a two-out double by Grant Jenkins.
The Little Dutch added a run in the seventh when Ethan Butler drilled a triple down the right field line. Tanner Wood hit an RBI single.
“All the pitchers, both for us and Pella, threw well tonight. Our guys threw strikes and kept the ball in play,” said Darin Tisdale, Cardinal co-coach. “Taylor Field had a quality start for us and Derek came in two work well in relief.
“Michael Barr made a few mistakes and they (the Little Dutch) were able to get a couple of key hits. Their pitcher made mistakes and we got under the ball and didn’t get the ball to fall for us. The guys kept competing tonight.”
Both Tisdale and Riley said they were pleased with how the Cardinals battled in both games. Riley said the Cardinals need to change their mental approach at the plate to take advantage of opportunities to score.