For eight out of nine innings on Wednesday night, the Newton Rebels were fully in control in a home tilt with the Salina Shock. That one inning nearly proved costly, but Newton was able to pick up its first win of the season in walk-off fashion by a final score of 8-7.
"We were in the game the whole time, and I just said 'stay there and find a way to scratch one across' and they were gritty and they got it done," said Rebels manager Brent Clark of the late inning drama.
Newton got off to a strong start, loading the bases with one out in the bottom half of the first inning and scoring a run on a bases-loaded walk drawn by Martin Casillas. However, the Rebels left the bases loaded and Salina got out of a shaky first inning with minimal damage.
The Rebels did not let another prime opportunity get away in the second inning, though, as Alex Minson got things started with a leadoff walk and then scored on an RBI double by Cale Thompson. An error brought Thompson in to score, while Brody Mariotti followed with another RBI double that pushed Newton's lead to 4-0.
Meanwhile, starting pitcher Trey Tucker was cruising on the mound for Newton, allowing one baserunner in each of the first two innings before striking out the side in the top of the third and retiring the Shock in order the following inning as well.
"He set the tone for us tonight, and that's what we need out of our starters. We need our starters to go six, seven innings in a game and let our backend guys do what they do," Clark said. "The offense is coming around; we're starting to click, so now once our pitching clicks things are gonna go uphill."
Salina got on the board with an RBI single from Adam Chesser in the fifth inning, but Newton answered in the sixth with a two-out RBI single from Mariotti — set up by Thompson's picture perfect bunt down the third base line — to maintain a four-run lead, 5-1.
During the seventh inning was when the tide started to turn, as a leadoff single and error put the first two runners on base and signaled the end of Tucker's night on the mound. A walk by relief pitcher Declan Spurlock then loaded the bases and Chesser delivered a two-RBI single to make it a 5-3 ball game. The Shock then scored two more runs on back-to-back wild pitches to tie the game and went ahead on an RBI single from Jordan Kennedy. Dylan Lans added an RBI double to push the lead to 7-5 in favor of Salina.
Newton turned right around and erased that deficit in the bottom of the seventh with some smart plays at the plate. TK Koontz led the inning off with a walk and then scored on an RBI double by Emillo Escamilla. Minson then moved Escamilla to third with a sacrifice bunt and Jack Leydon tied the game up again with a sacrifice fly.
"Our situational hitting is getting better. That's what we struggled on the first week. They're doing the situational stuff," Clark said. "We're bunting, we're getting guys over, we're scoring runs, so as long as we stay the course and stay on the gas pedal I think stuffs gonna start changing around here."
Ruben Portillo came on in relief for Newton over the final two innings and shut the door on Salina, setting the team up for a dramatic finish, which Koontz started off with a bunt single in the bottom of the ninth inning.
After two quick outs, Leydon and Thompson drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. While the Rebels had missed out on some similar opportunities earlier in the game, they got runs when they needed them most as Landon Erway was then hit by a pitch to secure the 8-7 walk-off victory for Newton.
"It feels good to get the first one. I think these guys needed that," Clark said. "They needed the first win under their belt and they gotta keep going. They can't get complacent with one win; they got a lot left."
The Rebels (1-5) will be back in action at home on Friday, facing off against the Haven Warhawks at 7 p.m.
Schlochtermeier SS;5;0;1;0;Thompson SS;6;2;4;1
Kennedy 2B;5;1;2;0;Erway 2B;6;2;0;1
Hibert C;5;0;0;0;Mariotti 1B;5;2;4;1
Lans DH;4;0;1;1;Herring DH;5;0;1;1
Nelson 3B;4;1;1;0;Casillas 3B;5;0;0;1
Smith RF;4;2;2;0;Koontz CF;5;1;1;0
Stramel LF;4;1;1;1;Escamilla C;5;0;1;1
Chesser 1B;4;1;3;2;Minson LF;4;1;0;0
Williams CF;4;1;0;0;Leydon RF;5;0;1;1
E — Schlochtermeier and Erway. LOB — Sal. 5, New. 8. 2B — Kennedy, Lans, Thompson, Mariotti (2) and Escamilla. SB — Williams, Thompson, Koontz (2) and Leydon. CS — Chesser and Thompson.
HBP — Sauer, Tucker (2) and Portillo.