NORMAL — The Newark baseball squad got off to a great start in Thursday’s IHSA Class 1A state semifinal against Father McGivney Catholic, scoring a run in the bottom of the opening inning to grab the early lead.
However, Griffins’ sophomore pitcher Jackson Rodgers didn’t allow another Norsemen to cross home plate thereafter in his complete-game effort, while the offense scored three times in the fifth and added single tallies in the sixth and seventh to send Father McGivney into the title game with a 5-1 victory at Duffy Bass Field on the campus of Illinois State University.
Newark sophomore starter Joe Martin pitched well despite suffering the loss, allowing the Griffins (31-6) eight hits, four runs (three earned) in six innings while walking two and striking out seven. Tegan Kruser gave up a hit, an unearned run and fanned a batter in the seventh.
“(Father McGivney) came into today averaging over 10 runs a game and we held them to five. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the big hits when we needed them. It was nice to jump out to the lead right away, but we needed to add on.— Newark coach Josh Cooper
“(Joe) did a great job for us today and has all season,” said NHS coach Josh Cooper. “(Father McGivney) came into today averaging over 10 runs a game and we held them to five. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the big hits when we needed them. It was nice to jump out to the lead right away, but we needed to add on. There in the second, we didn’t get a bunt down after a leadoff single, ground into a double play and then get a double from Ethan (Jeffers) that would have given us a two-run lead.”
Newark (26-2) grabbed the lead in its first trip to the plate, starting with leadoff man Tegan Kruser lining the first pitch from Rodgers to right field for a double. Jared Slivka followed with a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Kruser to third. Lucas Parakarnis then hit a ground ball to third, but the throw home to try and get Kruser was late and the locals had a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t think I had it beat, but the ball trickled away,” said Tegan Kruser. “We probably should have added on, but they had pretty tough pitching today … It felt great to get the crowd into it. The crowd gives you a lot of energy. It’s great to have a lot of people out here.”
In the second, Jake Kruser singled to start things, but a couple failed bunts attempts preceded a double play before Jeffers smacked a double to left and Rodgers (9-0) picked up the third out via strikeout.
The score stayed in favor of Newark until the top of the fifth when Father McGivney banged out five hits off Martin, including an RBI double from Matthew Gierer, run-scoring singles from Austin Callovini and Gabe Smith and a couple off misjudged/misplayed flyballs— all with two outs — to take the lead for good at 3-1.
“I was pretty hyped and our team came in ready to play, both teams were, but hats off to them,” said Martin, who finished his stint with 112 pitches. “They hit the ball. I was just happy to get that early lead … We just weren’t that heads up, but I can’t blame my team for that. I hung a curveball to a guy and the guy knocked it, and that was on me. I was a little frustrated, but I just tried to shake it off.”
“Joe was going through their lineup for the third time there in the fifth and he didn’t get a couple of close pitches and we didn’t make a couple plays we should have, but that’s baseball. They also were getting better timing and he left a few pitches up in the center of the zone.”
Father McGivney upped things to 4-1 in the sixth on an RBI single by Nathan Terhaar, and added a run in the seventh when Drew Sowerwine tripled with two outs and scored on a throwing error.
Rodgers scattered five hits, the lone first-inning run, didn’t walk a batter and fanned seven.
“We’re down, but we can’t hang our heads for too low because we know we’re at state,” said Martin. “We’re going to come back and do our best and hopefully get the next one.”