HUTCHINSON — All it took for the Newton Rebels to clinch a berth in the National Baseball Congress World Series was three hours, 41 minutes, 94 at bats and 13 innings.
With bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 13th, Michael Faul dropped a suicide squeeze bunt behind the charging Wichita Sluggers first baseman to claim a 4-3 win Tuesday at Bud Detter Field in the consolation semifinals of the Walter Johnson League post-season tournament.
Newton avenges a 2-0 loss to the Sluggers Sunday in the second round. Newton now takes on the Valley Center Diamond Dawgs at 6 p.m. today in the championship game. Newton needs two wins to claim the tournament title, but since Valley Center won the WJL regular-season title, the Rebels claim the NBC World Series berth for the post-season tournament.
“The coach put the (squeeze) on, and I was just trying to get the ball down,” Faul said. “Ben (Kozma) had a good read on the ball. I was just able to put it down. We just didn’t take advantage of the opportunities given us, but we finally got it done.”
Faul, a native of New Iberia, La., just finished his sophomore season at Hutchinson Community College. The tournament put him back on his home field.
“This was good,” Faul said. “Now we just need to win two tomorrow. We need to take it home and go to the NBC.”
Newton opened the bottom of the 13th with a pinch-hit bunt single by Kozma. Trevor Swint tried to bunt, but the ball bounced back and hit him outside the batter’s box for an out. Kozma then stole second, prompting an intentional walk. Kozma then sole third, prompting another intentional walk and setting up Faul’s game-winning hit.
Faul was hitless in his first five at bats, recording a hit-by-pitch.
“I just kept hitting it right at people,” Faul said. “The center fielder made a great play on my second at bat. He dove and caught it. The second baseman made a great play on my third at bat.”
We didn’t hit that well,” Newton co-manager Sean Bechtold said. “We had 12 hits, but that was over 13 innings. We’re going to the World Series. We executed that last play.”
Newton struggled with some baserunning miscues that may have extended the game.
“We wanted to get guys in scoring position,” Bechtold said. “We haven’t been running the hit-and-run well, but we wanted to give our guys the best opportunities to advance and keep out of the double play. We had some guys stealing. If we can keep the catcher off-balance, that helps us. We tried to steal third, and only did that twice. When we got thrown out the second time, I didn’t give anybody the sign. We had some guys run through signs. We have to clean that up if we want to be successful at the World Series.”
On the other hand, Newton scored two runs from second base on ground outs.
“Early in the game, you want that to happen,” Bechtold said. “We want guys to make those decisions. All we are is just directing traffic. We make suggestions. If we give you a steal, and you don’t feel like you have it, you don’t have to go. If you see an open bag, take it.”
Both teams had some gutsy middle and late relief efforts. Newton starter Joey Hinkley lasted three inning, but the remainder of the staff didn’t give up an earned run. Nathan Shelton and Cameron Fox each went two innings for Newton. Remington Johnson went four innings, allowing one hit, one walk and four strikeouts. Lucas Fornelli pitched the last two innings for the win. Fornelli allowed no hits, no walks and two strikeouts. The only baserunner Fornelli allowed was on an error.
“We were expecting to go nine, and once we went into extra innings, we had to change our game plan,” Bechtold said. “We did what we had to do to win. We now have to take into consideration what we’re going to do in the series. It panned out pretty good for us.”
Taylor Stuart and Brad Salsman both went two for five hitting. Chris Reese and Trevor Swint both went two for six.
Tyson Kendrick led the Sluggers, going four for six hitting with an RBI. John Dotson went two for six with two RBIs.
The Sluggers scored in the top of the first inning on a two-out RBI single for Dotson. For the Rebels in the bottom of the first, Taylor Roy walked, stole second and went two bases on a ground out to score. Dotson hit an RBI single for the Sluggers with one out in the third.
The Rebels finally took the lead in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Swint doubled and scored on a Stuart infield single. After a ground out and a hit batter, Reese singled to score Stuart.
With no runners on in the top of the sixth, a two-out error led to a Sluggers run. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Newton’s Andrew Revall drew a walk, but was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a Monty Cooper double.
Newton put two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the 12th. One runner was thrown out at third trying to steal.
Newton now faces a Valley Center team that was 2-1 against the Rebels in the regular season and won the post-season playoff series 2-1. None of the previous six games were decided by more than one run.
W.Sluggers    ab    r    h    bi
Ater cf    4    2    0    0
J.Johnson ss    3    1    0    0
Kendrick c    6    0    4    1
Macari p    6    0    1    0
Dotson 3b    6    0    2    2
Rojas dh    5    0    0    0
Maxson 1b    0    0    0    0
Longmore lf    5    0    1    0
Bonebrake 2b    6    0    0    0
McKown rf    6    0    0    0
TOTALS    47    3    8    3
Newton    ab    r    h    bi
Reese ss    6    0    2    1
Roy cf    5    1    1    0
Revall rf    4    0    0    1
Cooper c    6    0    1    0
Purdin 1b    4    0    0    0
Kozma ph    1    1    1    0
Swint lf    6    1    2    0
Stuart dh    5    1    2    1
Salsman 2b    5    0    2    0
Faul 3b    5    0    1    1
TOTALS    47    4    12    4
W    101    001    000    000    0    —3
N    100    200    000    000    1    —4
There was one out when the winning run scored.
E — Faul, Salsman, Purdin. LOB — WS 12, New. 13. 2B — Swint, Cooper, Kendrick. SB — Roy 2, Reese, Rojas, Swint, Kozma 2, Stuart. CS — J.Johnson, McKown, Roy.
W.Sluggers
    ip    h    r    er    bb    k
Sinclair    3.2    4    3    3    2    2
King    2.1    2    0    0    0    0
Biery    3    2    0    0    1    1
Touchet    2    1    0    0    0    1
Macari, L    1.1    3    1    1    3    0
Newton
    ip    h    r    er    bb    k
Hinkley    3    5    2    2    3    4
Shelton    2    1    0    0    1    0
Fox    2    1    1    0    2    1
Johnson    4    1    0    0    1    4
Fornelli, W    2    0    0    0    0    2
WP — Sinclair. PB — Cooper. Balk — . HBP — Faul (Sinclair). IBB — Revall (Macari), Stuart (Macari), Salsman (Macari). Time — 3:41.
Today’s games
Championship finals
Valley Center vs. Newton 6 p.m.
Game two (if needed) to follow