Baseball: Newman rallies to win fourth straight sectional title

Comets trailed by two runs before 5-3 comeback win

Newman’s Garet Matznick (left) and Garet Wolfe celebrate after Wolfe scores against North Boone Saturday, May 25, 2024 at the Byron 2A sectional final.

BYRON - The blueprint for winning has been pretty straightforward this postseason for the Newman baseball team: keep things close through four innings and get the ball to standout pitcher Brendan Tunink to finish the game.

It wasn’t perfect in Saturday’s Class 2A Byron Sectional final, but the Comets rallied for a 5-3 comeback win over North Boone to win a fourth straight sectional title.

The win sets up a Supersectional rematch on Monday at 4 p.m. against Chicago Hope Academy. Newman won 3-2 in last year’s Class 1A Supersectional matchup to go to state.

On Saturday, the Vikings loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning against Newman starter Garet Wolfe, prompting Comets coach Kenny Koerner to go to his all-state senior in a tough spot.

Starting pitcher Newman’s Garet Wolfe fires a pitch against North Boone Saturday, May 25, 2024 at the Byron 2A sectional final.

North Boone tied the game on a wild pitch and No. 9 hitter Gage Vermett delivered a big hit, lacing a two-run single to give the Vikings a 3-1 lead.

Tunink did not allow more than one base runner in the final three innings.

“It’s seven innings. We talk about it all the time,” Koerner said. “One thing leads to another.”

Newman’s No. 9 hitter, freshman Liam Nicklaus, got things going with a double in the fifth inning and Tunink tripled him in. Wolfe scored on a wild pitch in the sixth inning to tie the game at 3-3.

The Comets let the game come to them in the seventh inning, scoring two runs on sacrifices by Daniel Kelly and Wolfe before Tunink finished the game with his eighth strikeout with one runner on base.

Tunink said he didn’t warm up much after coming in to pitch from the outfield, but the team stuck through it and got the job done.

“We compete all the way through,” he said. “We don’t give up.”

Tunink said winning a sectional title all four of his years has been special.

“Most people dream about winning regionals and we’re over here winning (sectional titles) four times and trying to get a second super,” Tunink said. “It’s really been awesome.”

North Boone starter Matt Self kept things close for the Vikings, pitching six innings with four strikeouts, four walks and four earned runs allowed.

Newman’s Liam Nicklaus tags out North Boone’s RJ Wolski at third base Saturday, May 25, 2024 at the Byron 2A sectional final.

A number of underclassmen continued to deliver for Newman, which only has two seniors on the roster in Tunink and Isaiah Williams.

“We say, you’re not a freshman,” Koerner said. “We started two freshmen and three sophomores today.”

One of those freshmen, Ashton Miner, has come up big hitting behind Tunink in the three spot. Miner was intentionally walked his last two at-bats. His RBI double scored Newman’s first run in the third inning.

“We really worked all the way through our lineup,” Miner said. “We had guys at the top who were having great (at-bats) and it just continued the whole way. The energy stayed up the whole game.”

Tunink said he and Miner have been productive hitting back-to-back.

“He’s just an awesome hitter, especially for being a freshman, being that three-hole hitter,” he said. “He’s really special.”

Newman finished with eight hits and five walks in the win.

Miner said it’s been special to contribute as a freshman, helping the Comets win a 2A sectional title after playing in 1A.

“We’re a young team and not everybody has been here every year,” he said. “They’re ready to keep it going every year.”

What does four straight sectional titles mean for Koerner?

“It means you’ve got really good baseball players that play really hard,” he said, “and you’ve got very good assistant coaches and a lot of support from the administration and a lot of support from my wife ... but it means you’ve got really good baseball players and I’m lucky to have those kids.”

Koerner said Chicago Hope Academy was probably the best team his Comets faced last year.

“They’re really good, it will be fun,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of talented kids so it should be a fun game.”

Newman’s Brendan Tunink comes in for relief against North Boone Saturday, May 25, 2024 at the Byron 2A sectional final.
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Drake Lansman

Drake Lansman

Drake has been a sports reporter with Sauk Valley Media/Shaw Local since May of 2024. He is a Bettendorf native who graduated from Iowa State University. Drake previously covered sports in the Quad Cities area for nine years.