They used small ball and pitching, as is their custom…Newton advances to the D-IV District Finals with 6-0 shutout over Franklin Monroe.
Troy, OH – Newton baseball coach Jordan Kopp smiled at the notion that his 22-4 Indians might just be the quietest D-IV baseball team in Ohio…after shutting out Cross Country Conference foe Franklin Monroe, 6-0, Monday afternoon at Duke Park in Troy.
He’s no doubt heard it before, because Kopp and Newton have had good baseball in his brief tenure there as coach…20-win seasons that go unnoticed because inevitably there’s a team destined for something bigger that gets in their way – a Fort Loramie, Russia, or Minster.
But when it ain’t broke you don’t fix it, and Monday the Indians (22-4) used senior Ryan Mollette’s best pitching performance of the year, coupled with four hits, and error-free defense to advance to Wednesday’s district final; and they did it in the old now-predictable way. Franklin Monroe sophomore pitcher Brendan Hosler pitched well enough to win on most days, but a pair of lapses in the fourth and sixth innings aided Newton’s cause considerably.
After a scoreless first three innings, Hosler walked a pair to load the bases in the fourth, which Newton used to score a pair of runs to take a 2-0 lead.
Hosler would recover to pitch a scoreless fifth, but in the sixth the Indians would load ’em again on walks, a hit, and a hit batsman before a single to center by first baseman Mitch Montgomery drove in teammate Patrick Hughes with an insurance run. Before the inning was out they would score three more unearned runs to pad their lead to 6-0…and that was that.
Ryan Mollette did the rest, scattering three hits, striking out nine, and throwing, in Kopp’s words, “his best game of the season.”
“Yes sir,” said a smiling Mollette, perhaps Ohio high school baseball’s most polite teenager. “I was just feeling good with my curveball tonight. It was really working, I was getting my fastball in the zone, and when I got ahead 0-2 I just let the baseball go and they were swinging at it.”
“He was super-effective today,” added Kopp. “And that exactly what he did. He threw strikes. He was around the zone and when he got ahead he made guys chase. When you can do that you can be super-effective.”
They are practitioners of ‘small ball’…from Kopp’s manual on how to win minimally, because they aren’t a team of thumpers at Newton. Make contact, bunt, put the ball in play, work the count – make the other team make plays. Do whatever it takes to get on base, force their hand, and they might help you with an error or a wild pitch. That’s exactly how they did it Monday because Newton themselves would only collect four base hits on the day.
“We lost a lot of guys from a pretty good team last year and I wasn’t sure what we were going to have,” said Kopp following Monday’s win. “But these guys stick to the process of giving ourselves a chance to win. And we’ve won a lot of games late [like they did Monday]. We play with a ‘bend but don’t break attitude’. We stick with that and good things happen.”
And when you pitch as well as Ryan Mollette did Monday you always have a chance. And the Division IV picture got a little brighter for Newton about an hour after their final out was recorded…as Russia knocked out #1-ranked Fort Loramie, 1-0, in ten innings.
“Whoever we play…we’ll be ready,” said Kopp, who himself played on Bethel’s 2006 state runner-up team in Division IV.
“We’re going to get back to practice tomorrow, do our normal routine. It’s high school baseball and it’s tournament time. Anything can happen. I’ve played and I can remember going in as a #1-seed and getting upset. And I remember upsetting some teams. So anything can happen.”
It already did in Shelby County. That tremor you felt about 7:20 Monday evening…was Russia recording the final out. There will be a new champion this year in Division IV.