August 15, 2022

Cardinals hold off Carlisle in 3A substate opener

Newton baseball delivers historic postseason victory

CARLISLE — Evan Grimm was an emotional wreck after the Newton baseball team’s postseason game against Carlisle on Friday night.

And frankly, who could blame him?

Newton went 1-17 in 2020 and 2-28 in 2019. The Cardinal program also hadn’t logged a winning record since 2015 or won a playoff game since 2011.

Both of those streaks ended after the sixth-seeded Cardinals exorcised years of frustration following a 9-8 road victory over the third-seeded Wildcats in the Class 3A Substate 7 quarterfinals.

“I’m emotional because I love these guys, and I am proud of them,” Grimm said. “It feels good to be on a loving, winning team.”

Grimm is one of three senior starters who has played on all kinds of teams at Newton. He’s also one of five Cardinals who hit a home run against Carlisle on Friday.

Newton came into the game with six home runs and the 11 the Cardinals have now are the most in a season since they slugged 16 in 2009.

Grimm’s two-out, solo home run gave Newton a 2-1 lead in the second inning.

The margin grew to 4-1 after Braydon Chance and Kacey Sommars clubbed back-to-back bombs in the third.

“I always want to be the energy guy. I love getting these guys pumped up,” Grimm said. “Everyone feeds off each other. I think that homer got everyone going, and it was a snowball effect. It was crazy.”

Chance is another one of those senior starters who has been through some ups and plenty of downs with the Newton baseball program.

“We’ve worked hard and done so many things right only to come up short so many times,” Chance said. “I have put the ball on the warning track all season so it feels good. It’s a shorter field, but it still helps with my confidence. To hit like five as a team, that’s amazing.”

If five home runs in one game is not a school record, it likely is close.

Carlisle (17-15) rallied to tie the game at 4-all in the fifth. Newton came right back to regain the lead in the sixth. In that frame, Sommars opened with a single and Eli Stewart clubbed his first career varsity home run to put the Cardinals in front 6-4.

Three batters later, and after back-to-back doubles by Kael Swarts and Tade Vanderlaan, Jordan Killmer pushed the margin to 9-4 after his three-run blast.

“It was a 1-0 count and I was just looking for a fastball somewhere around my knees, and he gave me what I wanted,” Stewart said about his homer. “The win feels great. Evan is over there crying. We are just trying to enjoy it. I’m glad it was this team. I wouldn’t want to be playing with any other guys.”

It was the first varsity home run of Killmer’s career, too.

He’s played mostly junior varsity this season, and has two homers at that level, but was called up to the varsity to fill in for Turner Williams and Alex Thomason, who will be ineligible to play the rest of the season.

Killmer made his second start of the season. He also made an impact with his glove, running down several balls hit into left field.

“For not being experienced in the outfield, he made three or four really good catches,” Newton baseball coach Brad Kahler said. “And that’s his swing. He can do that.”

Swarts is the third senior starter for the Cardinals. He made his first career varsity postseason start on the mound and allowed six earned runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts in six innings.

Swarts (3-2) came into the game with 35 walks in 39 1/3 innings but issued just one walk and hit one batter against Carlisle. Both of those free bases came in the Wildcats’ two-run sixth inning.

“Shooting first-pitch strikes was big and it’s a lot easier to pitch with a lead,” Swarts said. “It was good to work ahead.”

Newton (16-14) began the game with a run in the first. Drew Thompson walked with one out, Chance reached on an error and Sommars registered an infield single to load the bases.

Stewart collected an RBI after he grounded out to third base.

Both teams scored one run in the first. The Cardinals’ home run parade began with Grimm’s bomb in the second.

Newton led 4-1 after four. Carlisle tied the game in the fifth, but Newton’s five-run sixth proved to be just good enough to win.

Carlisle scored a pair on a two-run home run by Jer Krcil in the sixth and added two more in the seventh.

“We scored five right after they scored three. I think that put them back down,” Chance said. “We stayed in it tonight, and I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. We just have to keep playing no matter what happens.”

There was more drama in the bottom of the seventh. Tade Vanderlaan relieved Swarts on the mound and the first three Wildcats reached in the inning despite all three batting with two strikes.

Vanderlaan recorded a strikeout and then a hidden-ball pickoff attempt was executed to perfection for the second out. Brody Bauer, who played second base for the first six innings, made a running catch in center field to end the game.

“I just bring it out when I need it,” Kahler said about the hidden-ball trick. “These kids really ride momentum, and I felt like if we could get one there it would help us out.

“Any ball that was hit, you never know where it can land. The last fly out was a lazy fly ball, but Brody caught it about 10 feet in front of the fence. He caught the ball after playing infield all night, too.”

It was the first career save for Vanderlaan, who allowed two earned runs on four hits with one strikeout in one inning.

Both teams had 10 hits and one error.

Sommars finished with three hits, one homer, two runs and one RBI. It was his team-best fourth home run of the summer.

“I just wanted to get on base. I trusted my lower half and threw my hands at it and the lower half did the work,” Sommars said about his homer. “There’s been a lot of frustrations built up over the past few years. We were able to get over the hump tonight. We have to keep going though. The job is not done.”

Grimm also had two hits as he registered a single and stole second in the sixth. The home run was his second this season and third of his career.

Stewart finished with three RBIs, Swarts and Vanderlaan both doubled and Vanderlaan and Conner McPartlin each scored one run. Thompson walked and scored one run.

The homer by Killmer was just his second hit this season and Chance’s homer was his second blast of the year.

“He works really hard. We know he can do that,” Swarts said about Killmer. “With the situation we are in, he came in and stepped up big for us. That play in left field, that was a run if he doesn’t get to that ball.”

Carlisle got a two-run home run from Trey Lee in the fifth and he also took the pitching loss. Ryan Petersen had two hits and two runs and Tyler Deal added two hits and two RBIs for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats rallied from two different deficits, trailing 4-1 and 9-4.

“I thought we had a tough draw. I think if they aren’t the best team they might be the second best team in our district,” Kahler said. “They are a bunch of tough outs, they play the game the right way and were a gritty bunch tonight.”

The Cardinals next play Pella in the 3A Substate 7 semifinals at 7 p.m. on Monday in Pella.

And they’ll have to play the game, and any game after that, without their best hitter and No. 1 pitcher in Williams.

“This team has had some bad luck. It sucks, but we have to move on without him,” Kahler said. “A lot of the frustrations in the baseball program came to a head tonight. This was a big monkey off the back of the Newton baseball program.”

Notes: The last time Newton had a winning record was 2015. The Cardinals’ last postseason win came in 2011 when they defeated both Marshalltown and Ankeny in the 4A playoffs. … Newton was 1-5 in its previous six games leading up to Friday’s substate game. … Carlisle came into the game with 16 home runs as a team. The Wildcats’ biggest wins this summer came against Indianola, Dallas Center-Grimes, ADM and North Scott. … Newton’s defense helped out its pitchers on multiple occasions. Chance made a diving catch in center field with two outs and a runner on second to end the sixth. Thompson made a handful of stops behind the plate on wild pitches or pitches in the dirt. “I thought Drew caught a really good game,” Kahler said.