WEST DES MOINES — Held scoreless and to one hit through five innings in Friday’s Class 4A substate tournament opener, Newton Senior High’s Cardinals were still in the game with ninth-ranked Dowling Catholtic High’s Maroons. They trailed 4-0.
With one out, Chandler Sturtz ripped a base hit to center field to begin the bottom of the sixth inning for Newton. Tyler Wood tagged a pitch from Dowling’s Jake Reinhardt for a single to right with two gone.
A passed ball allowed the Cardinal base runners to advance to second and third base. Designated hitter Evan Shimon was ahead in the count, 3-0, but Reinhardt worked back to a 3-2 count.
Shimon won the battle with a solid single to deep left field, driving in two runs for the Cardinals. Shimon attempted to go to second on the throw but the Maroons fielded the ball and fired a strike to second base to tag Shimon out in a close play to end the inning.
The Maroons — maybe a bit miffed at being the visting team on their home field — peppered the Cardinals with seven hits, took advantage of two Newton errors and scored nine runs in the top of the seventh inning. Dowling used three pitchers to retire Newton’s first three batters of the bottom of the frame and secure a 13-2 win.
“It’s all we could ask for to be in the game going into the seventh inning,” said Darin Tisdale, Newton co-coach. “We were right there, but Dowling made adjustments against Derek (Wrage) and hit the ball where we weren’t.”
Newton starting pitcher Tyler Wood and reliever Derek Wrage had kept the Maroons in check following a three-run first inning. Wood worked the first four innings, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks. He recorded one strikeout.
Wrage had given up two hits in two innings before the seventh inning. He walked two — both were intentional walks to set up defensive situations in the sixth and seventh frames.
“Our pitchers did what we could do,” Tisdale said. “We made a mistake on a pitch early but both of them pitched strikes. Couldn’t have asked any more of them.”
That mistake came with one gone in the first inning. Dowling had two men on base when Nate Hunter unloaded on a pitch for a three-run home run over the left field fence. Sam Schliesman drew a walk for the Maroons in the second inning and scored on a double by Scotty Tigner, who was 3-for-3 in the game.
It stayed 4-0 until the Cardinals scored in the bottom of the sixth.
“We held them down for about as long as we could. There’s a reason they are a good 4A team. They have good hitters and they have more pitching than we do,” said Pat Riley, NHS co-coach. “I was impressed with the way we played tonight. We had them right where we needed them.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming here and beating them but it was 4-2 in the top of the seventh. You can’t ask for more than the effort we got from our kids tonight.”
Riley said the Cardinals needed one more pitcher to come in when Wrage started to struggle. The Cardinal pitching staff ran short late in the season because of injuries and other commitments for players, Riley said.
Besides the three singles in the sixth for Newton, Mike McCormick had a single in the second inning. Michael Barr reached on an error to open the third inning for the Cardinals. Unfortunately in both cases, Newton wasn’t able to sustain a scoring threat against the Maroons.
Newton’s 2013 season came to an end with Friday’s loss in the first round of the Iowa Class 4A playoffs. The Cardinals finished at the .500 mark, 17-17.
“It’s a learning experience for these guys,” Riley said. “To know where we are now and where we want to go, the guys have to know its going to take a lot of hard work, effort and to be coachable. They have been coachable this season and have responded to what Coach Tisdale and I have been teaching them.”
Senior catcher Taylor Field and senior right fielder Zach Gifford played their final game for Newton on Friday.
The Cardinals’ two other seniors, Jacob Hill and Jacob Marter, were not available for the game. Collin Reynolds, a senior, was injured and didn’t play this season.
“Our guys did a good job competing all year. The seniors did a good job and we battled through some injuries. We got a lot of experience for guys who will be coming back next year,” Tisdale said. “Even a Dowling coach, who worked with a few of our hitters in the off-season, said there was night and day improvement in what our kids are doing now.”
The Cardinals had some impressive defense plays in Friday’s game. In the first inning, Barr, who was at third base, charged in and caught a bunt that was up in the air for the first out of the game. Sturtz came up with a hot-shot, line drive to shortstop in the third inning.
In the fourth, Dowling’s Jason Bowman laid down a bunt, which stayed fair by rolling right down the third-base line.
With the next batter at the plate, a pitch got away from Field, the Cardinal catcher, and rolled off to the left toward the backstop. Field hustled back to snare the baseball and Bowman took off for second base. Field threw a strike to Sturtz in plenty of time to tag out Bowman sliding into the bag.
That play turned out to be big since the Maroons came up with back-to-back singles with two gone. A hard smash just to the right side of second base was knocked down by McCormick, doing the splits. McCormick was able to make the toss to Sturtz covering the base for a force out to end the inning.
Jeff Stanton made a long run and a diving catch in shallow left field for the Cardinals in the fifth. He got up and made a throw to Barr, who had moved to first base, to record a double play by doubling off the Dowling runner at first.
With the bases loaded with Maroons and one out in the sixth, Schliesman hit a grounder back to the pitcher’s mound. Wrage fielded the ball, threw to Field at home plate for a force out who then made the throw to first for the double play.
One of Newton’s two errors in the seventh inning happened with McCormick and center fielder Levi Michener collided on a play for a fly ball in shallow center field.
“We’re going to be really competitive in our conference (Little Hawkeye). There’s no question in my mind of that, but when we move into the playoffs, we have to step our game up. Defensively, I believe we’ll be right where we are right now to start next year and progress from there,” Riley said.
“If our kids are determined to continue to grow, we’re going to be tough to play against next year”
Sports editor Jocelyn Sheets may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 432, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.