NEWARK – Dalton Reibel absolutely knew the significance and the gravity of what he and his team needed to accomplish as he took the mound Monday.
The Newark senior would end up standing tall on the hill and looming large in the batter’s box.
Reibel helped lead the No. 1-seeded Newark baseball team to a dominating 16-1, four-inning victory over Little Ten Conference rival and fifth-seeded Serena that gave the Norsemen only their second Class 1A regional championship in school history. The first came in 2006, when coach D.J. Cocks guided Newark to a 25-6 record and a Class A regional title back in the old IHSA two-class system.
“It’s really fun to win, and before today our school hasn’t been close in a long time in baseball since that ballclub in 2006,” Reibel said. “I guess maybe our 2019 team got close but this team is just really fun to play on and we’ve really got things going in the right direction and we’re making history as we go along with every win.”
Reibel (9-0) kept his record perfect on the hill so far this year, throwing 42 pitches over 3 1/3 innings while allowing one run on two hits while walking one and striking out four. He also went 2 for 3 at the plate with three RBIs and three runs scored as Newark (23-1) advanced to host Winnetka North Shore Country Day (16-7) in Wednesday’s sectional semifinal scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. start.
Reibel will be eligible to throw again after his low pitch count against Serena.
“We got out to a great start today in the first inning, and now I can go out there again on Wednesday if I need to,” Reibel said. “But this afternoon, my team gave me all I could ever want as a starting pitcher in the top of the first inning.”
The Norsemen took full advantage of six Serena errors, including four in the first inning that led to 16 batters reaching the plate and eventually a 10-0 advantage against tough-luck senior and losing pitcher Connor Holdiman.
Reibel had two RBIs during the monstrous uprising, while Mitchell Kruser, Tegan Kruser, and Joe Martin (2 for 4, four RBIs) also produced run-scoring at-bats as the Norsemen staked Reibel to a dream lead after the rash of miscues by the Huskers.
“We had a couple of chances to end the opening inning with no runs allowed,” Serena coach Chad Baker said. “After all the early errors, there’s not much you can do, nothing much left to fix and we couldn’t get off the field fast enough with that bad of a start against a very good team that made us pay big time for all the mistakes.”
The Huskers (11-16) did manage to touch Reibel with their only run in the top of the second. After two outs, sophomore Cam Figgins reached on a hard-hit infield single that Newark shortstop Tegan Kruser couldn’t corral. Junior Cole Shannon followed with an RBI double to left-center field that put Serena on the board trailing, 10-1, after an inning and a half.
Freshman pitcher Carson Baker came on and pitched admirably, holding Newark scoreless in the second. But the Norsemen tacked on three more in the third with another unearned run and run-scoring plate appearances from Martin and Jake Kruser to put the home team up, 13-1, after three.
Newark ended the game by run rule in the bottom of the fourth. After two were gone, senior Jared Slivka (3 for 4, four runs scored) singled, as did junior Lucas Pasakarnis. Reibel then drove in Slivka with an base hit, and Martin scored Pasakarnis and Reibel with the historic regional champion final tallies on a two-run single to left.
“All the credit goes to my guys here and the amazing season they’ve put up so far and are continuing to put up,” second-year Newark coach Josh Cooper said. “It’s so fun, and they don’t want it to stop, and neither do I. Dalton did a great job today on the mound and at the plate leading us. It’s a true honor to be the second regional baseball champions in our school’s history. In 2006 when they first did it, I was in middle school. To be compared to something like that means the world to me and to us. We’re ready for a lot more that’s for sure.”