McPHERSON — The bats were alive for the Newton Senior Knights in the championship game of the Kansas American Legion Class AAA, Zone 5 Tournament Wednesday at the Grant Sports Complex in McPherson.
Newton banged out 20 hits to down host McPherson 18-4. The game was called after seven innings on the 10-run rule.
Newton needed 11 innings to edge McPherson Tuesday in the semifinals. McPherson returned to the finals with a 10-9 win over Buhler, drawing a bases-loaded hit batter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
"We just played with a better two-strike approach today," Newton manager Andy Preston said. "The strike zone was a little tighter today. I told the guys to be more selective because of that. They were in the hot sun all day and we had to take advantage of that. You could tell they were laboring. You don't necessarily want to be the visitors, but I was glad to be the visitors today to get that early lead."
All nine Newton batters in the lineup had at least one hit. Gunar Drinnen was four for six hitting with three RBIs. Cole Sturgeon went four for five hitting with four RBIs. Austin Crumrine went three for five. Keil Stauffer and Drake Sturgeon each went two for four. Drake Sturgeon drove in two runs. Dakota Long drew four walks with a hit and drove in a run.
"Yesterday, I wasn't hitting too good," Drinnen said. "We just came out ready to play them. We were hoping to play them again. There is always a little rivalry between us. Tonight, we didn't back down from them."
Cole Sturgeon was brought up from the Junior Knights at the end of the Class A zone tournament and two losses to Salina in the finals.
"The game is a lot faster, that's the main difference," Cole Sturgeon said. "I was just seeing the ball well tonight. We jumped on them early and we were pitching strikes. In the speech (Junior Knights manager Mark) George gave us after the game, he told us to keep that chip on our shoulder. We made sure we kept it on our shoulder tonight. Earlier in the week, I was told to be ready to hit. I tried to be ready for anything. Early in the game, I saw a lot of fastballs. Later on, I saw a lot of breaking balls."
"What they brought to the lineup today — Cole and Drake — was great," Preston said. "Drake was protecting Cole in the lineup, so Cole was getting pitches to hit. That's the little things you don't see. Austin Crumrine hit well today in the five hole. We're going to need that at state."
The game was played on an all-grass surface with dirt only at the plate, the mound and around the bases. Newton had just two errors in the tournament. McPherson had five errors in the game.
"I like this surface," Drinnen said. "It's about the same. It's a little faster."
Newton starter Peyton Dahl went the distance on the mound, allowing four runs on eight hits with five walks and a strikeout.
"Peyton Dahl settled in nicely," Preston said. "I know his control wasn't very good early, but he is a resilient kid. They didn't run the bases very clean, and we took advantage for some double plays. Defense isn't our problem at all. As long as we have guys throwing strikes and hitting, our defense is tough to beat."
McPherson starter Garrett Higgins took the loss. Higgins left the game in the second inning. Ethan Nadeau finished the game.
Ethan Blouin went two for three hitting for McPherson.
The Knights scored five runs on four hits with two walks and an error in the top of the first inning. McPherson came back with a pair of runs on two hits with a walk and a hit batter in the bottom of the first.
Newton sent 11 batters to the plate in the second inning, scoring five more runs, aided by two errors. McPherson put a pair of runners on base in the bottom of the second inning, but left them stranded. Newton added a run on two hits in the top of the third.
McPherson had two doubles in the bottom of the fifth inning, but a line out led to a double play and the other runner was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.
Drinnen hit an RBI single with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. Garrett Higgins replied in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run.
With no outs in the top of the seventh, Crumrine doubled and Cole Sturgeon tripled, scoring on a Drake Sturgeon sacrifice fly. With two outs, Drinnen hit a two-run double and scored on an Austin Resser single. Blouin doubled and scored for McPherson in the bottom of the seventh.
Newton advances to the state tournament, which opens Thursday at Larks Park in Hays. Newton will play the Zone 4 winner (Arkansas City, Winfield, Andover or Sedan) Wednesday in the first round.
"We're going to take three days off," Preston said. "Back in my day, you wanted to be practicing every day, but as I've coached a little longer, sometimes you want to take some time off and get regrouped. We want to come back out with energy when we go to state."
Championship game one
Newton 18, McPherson 4
(7 innings, run rule)
(Newton wins zone title)
Newton ab r h bi
Stauffer ss 4 2 2 0
Long 2b 2 3 1 1
Drinnen 3b 6 3 4 3
Resser 1b 6 3 2 1
Crumrine rf 5 2 3 0
C.Sturgeon dh 5 2 4 4
D.Sturgeon lf 4 2 2 2
Sweely c 4 0 1 0
Stein cf 5 1 1 2
TOTALS 41 18 20 12
McP. ab r h bi
Blouin 1b 3 2 2 0
Gonzalez ss 3 0 1 0
Marshall 1b 3 1 1 1
Burney 3b 2 0 1 1
DeVore cf 3 0 1 1
Higgins lf 3 1 1 1
Peck rf 2 0 0 0
Struber rf 0 0 0 0
Schrag lf 0 0 0 0
Nadeau p 3 0 0 0
Likely c 3 0 1 0
TOTALS 25 4 8 4
Newton 551 001 6 —18
McPher. 200 001 1 —4
E — Gonzalez 2, Burney 2, Stauffer, Nadeau, Drinnen. DP — Newton 3. LOB — New. 11, McP. 7. 2B — Stein, Gonzalez, Burney, Crumrine, Drinnen, Blouin. 3B — C.Sturgeon. HR — Higgins. SB — Crumrine 2, Stauffer. CS — Sweely. Sac. Bunt — Crumrine. Sac. Fly — D.Sturgeon, Burney.
ip h r er bb k
Dahl, W 7 8 4 4 5 1
ip h r er bb k
Higgins, L 1 7 9 3 3 1
Nadeau 6 13 9 4 4 1
Higgins faced 5 batters in the second inning.
WP — Higgins 2, Dahl 2. HBP — Burney (Dahl). Time — 1:55.