ANKENY — Down by four runs and two gone in the fourth inning, Newton’s Jordan Travis connected for the Cardinals’ third hit of the game. The junior saw the play in front of him as he ran to first, round the bag and sprinted toward second base.
Travis saw Ankeny Centennial’s center fielder bobble the ball and he took a chance. He slid in safely to give Newton a scoring opportunity. A wild pitch by the Jaguars’ Keenan Jones allowed Travis to move to third base.
Travis finished off his base running by coming home on a passed ball. Unfortunately, the Cardinals weren’t afforded enough scoring opportunities by the hosting Jaguars in Friday night’s Iowa Class 4A Substate 7 opening-round game.
Ankeny Centennial added four runs in the sixth stretching its lead to 8-1. The Jaguars quashed Newton’s seventh-inning threat to win the game. The Cardinals drew back-to-back walks off Jones to start the seventh then had two batters strikeout.
Chandler Sturtz, senior shortstop, singled to load the bases. Jones got junior Tyler Wood to ground out to first base for the final out.
“We didn’t hit the ball as much as we should have tonight. We knew we’d have to play almost perfect to advance,” Newton co-head coach Pat Riley said.
Sturtz said the team went into the game with “a good shot” to win it and just to battle.
“They were going to throw their best (pitcher) and we were going to throw our best (pitcher) and see what happens,” Sturtz said. “The big difference tonight is they got hits with people in scoring position and we didn’t.”
Wood started on the mound for the Cardinals, but gave way to senior Derek Wrage in the second inning with two outs. Wood took the loss and was charged with four runs on four hits and four walks.
Wrage went 3 1/3 innings in relief, giving up four runs on eight hits and one walk. He struck out three batters. Travis came on in the sixth, allowing one hit and walking one.
Jones limited the Cardinal hitters to five hits over seven innings and the senior left-hander struck out 11. Wrage had two singles. Travis singled. Sturtz hit a double and a single.
“We wanted to win but it was a nice way to go out for me,” Wrage said of his final game for NHS. “We played a good game. As a team, we came a long way this season. We started playing better at the end of the season and that’s what you want to do. All the younger kids stepped up when we needed them to and I think they have a bright future ahead of them.”
Newton co-head coach Darin Tisdale pointed to the strong leadership of the three seniors — Sturtz, Wrage and Evan Shimon. He said all three did a great job all year for the Cardinals.
“Evan was steady behind the plate for us and Wrage had a good season on the mound. Chandler played shortstop and pitched some for us,” Tisdale said. “We’ve got juniors coming back and some other young kids who will step up for us.”
Tisdale said the Cardinals’ final record doesn’t indicate how well the team was playing at the end of the season. He said Newton had a good team, “but we allowed a few games get away from us with one bad inning here or there.”
The loss brought to close the 2014 season for the Cardinals. They were 14-20 overall and finished fifth in the Little Hawkeye Conference at 10-11.
“We didn’t win as many games as we would have liked this year, but as Derek said, we were playing better at the end of the season,” Shimon said. “We cleaned up the little things that plagued us early. Tonight, I didn’t think about it being my last game. It will probably hit me later, but we were out to win and move on. I tried to give it my all and have no regrets.”
Sturtz said the 2014 Cardinals were a great team to play with this season. He said the team had a good mix of guys coming back and younger players to have a good season.
“We hit our stride half way through the season and were playing good ball at the end,” Sturtz said. “I did think of it being my last game but put that out of my mind quickly before the game. We wanted to keep on play. It goes by fast.”
“We lose three quality seniors, who were key to what we did this season,” said Riley. “We have the core of our pitchers returning and some good young players coming up. The future is bright for Newton baseball.”