Schultz changes sides of the diamond to lift Junior Knights

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan
Newton Junior Knight Parker Schultz, normally a catcher, took to the mound Friday to post a one-hit win over the Buhler Nationals 15U team.

The Newton Post 2 American Legion Junior Knight baseball team is closing out its season in much better shape than it started.

The Junior Knights swept the first of two triangulars during the weekend, downing the Buhler Nationals 15U team 13-3 in four innings and outlasting the Hutchinson Salthawks 16U team 8-5.

It was a catcher-turned pitcher Parker Schultz who led the way on the mound for the Junior Knights, pitching a complete-game, one-hitter against Buhler, allowing three runs, three walks and six strikeouts.

Newton Junior Knight Keenan McCune makes a play during play Friday against Buhler. Newton finished the first day of a pair of triangulars 2-0.
Hutchinson pitcher Aiden Whitsitt pitched a complete game in an 18-4 win over the Buhler Nationals.

“I just kind of have fun on the mound,” Schultz said. “It gives me a break between catching. I feel like I’m still in control of the game from pitching to catching.”

Schultz had control of the game in three of the four innings, struggling in the third inning.

“I felt like I was doing fine until that third inning,” Schultz said. “I picked it back up in the fourth inning.”

The Junior Knights lost six of the first seven games this summer. The team has won six of its last nine games.

“It was just the kids from different towns trying to get our chemistry back together,” Schultz said. “We had to get to know everybody and get our enthusiasm back up. That’s been a big issue for us.”

“They have come a long way. They have gotten better all year,” Newton manager Mark George said. “They’ve learned, they’ve improved a tremendous amount — not just in pounding the zone and throwing strikes, but defensively, it’s the most improvement we’ve had.”

Hutchinson player Jax Heneha makes contact with a pitch during play against Buhler at Newton.
Buhler National 15U player Nate Olson awaits a pitch during play against Newton.

Schultz will be a junior at Newton High School this upcoming school year. He spent most of last season on the junior varsity, but did get called up to varsity for regional play.

“At the beginning of the season, I felt like I wasn’t doing very good, but towards the end of the season, I felt like I was doing better,” Schultz said. “I just had to figure out what I was doing wrong and go on from there.”

Schultz said it was his first one-hitter. He had a three-inning no hitter in high school, but said that game ended early because the field didn’t have lights.

Ian Baker went two for three hitting with four RBIs. Miker Seirer and Keenan McCune each drove in two runs without a hit. Ryan Ruggerio went two for three hitting.

Parker Freeman took the loss for Buhler.

Buhler National 15U Vincent Wheeler makes a play in the outfield during play Friday at Klein-Scott Field. Buhler finished the first day of the three-team triangular 0-2.

In the Hutchinson game, Newton led 4-1, but gave up three runs in the top of the sixth inning. Newton came back with five runs in the bottom of the sixth and held a Hutchinson rally in the seventh to one run.

Jayden Nash pitched two innings of relief for the win. Owen Myers struck out four in five innings for the win.

Myers had two hits and two RBIs. Ruggerio had two hits and an RBI. Baker had two hits.

“The second game was a marque game for us,” George said. “Owen Myers did a phenomenal job pitching. He probably lost his stuff there and I might have left him in a batter or two too long. Jayden Nash did a great job of coming in and pounding the zone and giving us a chance. The defense played well all night.”

Mikah Giles took the loss for Hutchinson. Nolan Cunningham had two hits and an RBI.

In the middle game, Hutchinson downed Buhler 18-4 in five innings. Hutchinson scored nine runs in the top of the fifth. Aiden Whitsitt tossed a complete-game, striking out two. Logan Briner took the loss.

Giles had three hits with three RBIs for Hutchinson. Jax Heneha and Lakin Franz each had two RBIs. Austin Savoy drove in two runs for Buhler.

“The kids battled very hard,” Hutchinson manager Jim Preston said. “We had a chance at the end of the second game. We got a couple and we needed a couple more. We played our younger kids against (Buhler). That was one of their younger teams. We played pretty well against them.”

“We’re struggling to throw strikes,” Buhler manager Cody McReynolds said. “The defense had to make some plays. The defense needs to step up. That fifth inning (against Hutchinson) was rough. That takes it out of you. We just want to keep getting better. In baseball, you start out 0-0. We had some innings where we left runners on. If we move those runner, it could have been different.”

Saturday, Newton downed Buhler 10-0. Keegan Rousseau drove in three runs. Nash drove in two runs. Baker pitched a no-hitter. Scores for the final two games were not reported.

Friday’s games

Newton 13, Buhler 3

(4 innings, run rule)

Buhler;003;0;—;3;1;3

Newton;364;x;—;13;6;1

Freeman (L), Metzger 2 and Neill; Schultz (W) and Ruggerio. Time — 1:08.

Hutchinson 18, Buhler 4

(5 innings, run rule)

Hutchinson;024;39;—;18;11;0

Buhler;012;01;—;4;4;1

Whitsitt (W) and Heneha; Brinar (L), Ellis 4, Kennedy 5, Neill 5 and Wheeler. Time — 1:59.

Newton 8, Hutchinson 5

Hutchinson;010;003;1;—;5;6;3

Newton;200;024;x;—;8;8;1

Giles (L), L.Franz 6 and L.Franz, Heneha 6; Myers, Nash (W) 6 and Ruggerio. Time — 1:53.

Mark Schnabel can be reached at mschnabel@thekansan.com