Newton junior Brody Bauer likes the way the Cardinal baseball team is trending. But he knows they are far from a finished product.
“We are definitely not perfect. Not even close. But we are taking some strides in the right direction,” Bauer said after Newton stung Oskaloosa 16-4 on Friday night. “We have dudes who are consistent, but as a team we aren’t as consistent as we want to be yet. We are going in the right direction but can be better still.”
Friday’s Little Hawkeye Conference game against Oskaloosa went just five innings as Newton plated three runs in the first, four in the second, six in the third and three in the fourth to win easily.
It was the Cardinals’ first sweep of an LHC team since taking all three from Pella Christian in 2018.
Newton also reached double-digit wins for the season. The last time the Cardinals did that was that same 2018 summer.
“This is my fourth year of varsity baseball, and this is the first time we’ve ever swept a conference team all three games,” Newton senior Braydon Chance said. “It feels really good. It feels like we are trending in the right direction at the right time. This is the official second half of the season so it’s great momentum.”
The Cardinals (10-8 overall, 6-6 in the LHC) cranked out 14 hits. The top four batters in the lineup — Turner Williams, Bauer, Chance and Kacey Sommars — had 10 of those and they reached base in all but three plate appearances.
“Those guys are really important,” Newton baseball coach Brad Kahler said. “I don’t expect that kind of night from all of them every game. But it’s nice when it happens, and it was good to see the guys down in the lineup have some success, too.”
Others were productive. In the first, Bauer singled and Chance walked with one out. With two outs, Eli Stewart walked to load the bases and Kael Swarts drew an RBI walk. Then, Evan Grimm laced a two-run double from the No. 7 spot in the lineup.
The Indians answered with a four-run second inning. Eight batters walked to the dish in all and Oskaloosa scored the four runs on five hits and two Cardinal errors.
The top of Newton’s order did most of the damage in the second. Williams doubled with one out and then Bauer walked. Chance’s RBI double made it 4-0 and then Sommars pushed two more across with a two-run double.
Swarts came through with a two-out, RBI single to finalize the scoring in the frame.
“Again, we gave up the four but came right back and scored more the next inning,” Kahler said. “It’s been the theme all year. If we hit, we probably win. It’s the way it’s gone.”
In the third, Newton sent 10 batters to the plate. Tade Vanderlaan began the inning with an opposite field single down the line in right field.
Drew Thompson laid down a bunt and reached on an Oskaloosa error to put two runners on base. Williams’ RBI single extended the lead and then Bauer drove in two more with a single.
Chance singled in front of a Sommars’ RBI double. and then Swarts capped the scoring in the inning with an RBI sacrifice fly to left.
The Cardinals scored enough runs in the fourth to turn on the 10-run mercy rule. Thompson opened the inning with a walk and then Williams singled and Bauer walked to load the bases.
Thompson’s courtesy runner, Jordan Killmer, scored on a wild pitch before Chance made it 16-4 with a two-run single. All three runs came with no outs.
“I think we are trending in the right direction,” Williams said. “If we can continue these battles and keep scoring runs like we did tonight against better teams, that will tell us a lot. We need to keep it rolling.”
Williams was 3-for-4 with three runs and one RBI from the lead-off spot in the lineup. The lefty is batting a team-best .482 and he’s tied for second on the team with 16 runs scored. His on-base percentage is .517, which also leads the team.
“It’s consistency in the cage and coming here ready to work every day. The guys hold me accountable when I slack off, too,” Williams said. “These past couple of weeks, we’ve gotten back on track with our offense and everyone is holding everybody accountable.”
Bauer finished 2-for-2 with four runs, two RBIs and two walks. He is batting .360 and leads the team with 19 runs scored. He gets on base more than 46 percent of the time.
“I feel like we were confident as a team coming in after the big win on Wednesday,” Bauer said. “We approach every game the same way, but we felt good coming in and were eager to get back in the box.”
Chance finished 3-for-3 with three runs, three RBIs and one walk. He jumped on the first pitch in most of his at-bats, too.
“I know the pitching side of everything so that helps. If I get ahead as a pitcher, I know that it’s an advantage,” Chance said. “So I try to take that advantage away. And a lot of times the best pitch you’ll see as a hitter is the first one because they are trying to get ahead in the count.”
Sommars finished with two hits, three RBIs and one run scored. He also pitched his first career complete game on the mound. Sommars leads the squad with 23 RBIs and ranks tied for second with 16 runs scored.
On the mound, he got the win after allowing four runs — two earned — on seven hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
Neither team had a lot of pitching left on a Friday. So Sommars (1-0) being able to go the distance was big for Newton and he’s still able to throw Wednesday if the team needs him.
Swarts had one hit, one walk and three RBIs, Grimm doubled and finished with two RBIs, Stewart walked once and scored one run, Thompson singled and scored one run, Vanderlaan singled once and Riley Mouchka and Killmer each scored one run as courtesy runners.
Oskaloosa (7-12, 2-8) finished with seven hits and two errors. Newton outscored the Indians 42-8 in the three LHC games this summer.
“It’s nice to see things come together. We are hitting hard line drives now and not popping everything up,” Kahler said. “We already have more wins than last year. Next week is a big week. We need to continue to play well.”
The Cardinals face Pella for an important LHC doubleheader at Eversman Field at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in Newton.
Chance said the squad is treating every game like it’s a postseason game from here on out.
“We have to keep hitting. We have to get on base,” Chance said. “We have to keep going. We have a chance to be the two or three seed in our district.”