By Josh Brown
BRADFORD — As Newton softball coach Mark Gibson walked up to his team for the postgame chat, his team simply chanted “Yes! Yes! Yes!” with raised hands. He then raised his own hand and joined in for one final round, and they all walked away.
“I don’t know if I’ve got anything to say after that,” he said.
Not much needed said. The Indians had already done their talking on the field.
A two-run triple by Mallory Dunlevy keyed a three-run fourth inning, Kylee Fisher hit a solo homer with two outs in the bottom of the sixth that helped the Indians added two more insurance runs and Kristen Rappold, Erin Norman and the Newton defense kept a scrappy Raider lineup in check for enough of the day to help top-seeded Newton claim a 9-5 victory over No. 6 Russia in the Division IV sectional title game Tuesday at Bradford High School.
Newton (18-8), which took the lead in the third inning and never looked back, knew that nothing would be easy the entire game. And it wasn’t either, as the Indians took a 9-3 lead into the top of the seventh, only to have the Raiders load the bases with no outs. Still, Newton reliever Norman was able to escape the inning with minimal damage and preserve the win.
“I knew it was going to be a battle the whole way,” Gibson said. “Russia just never gives up. They always give us a tough game. And it was a full team effort. That’s one of those things you hope for. The way that they pulled together was unbelievable. To have a full team effort in a big game like this against a great team like Russia, I’m so proud.”
The Raiders actually led after the top of the first, spurred by back-to-back bunt singles by Lexi and Lauren Monnin to lead off the inning. Newton starter Rappold induced a fielder’s choice to get the lead runner, but a walk loaded the bases and Claudia Courts drove an RBI single back up the middle.
“That first inning, they bunted on us a lot,” Gibson said. “Their No. 2 hitter (Lauren Monnin), holy cow, she was 4 for 4 with three bunts. She’s so quick and she executes so well, and they came prepared to put some pressure on us — and they did a great job of that right away. But luckily, we weathered that storm and were able to put some runs up.”
On that RBI single by Courts, though, Newton center fielder Dunlevy threw a strike to catcher Maddi Weaver at home to nail a second runner trying to score for the second out of the inning. And with another Russia runner trying to score on a wild pitch two batters later with the bases loaded, Weaver flipped to Rappold covering the plate to get the out — the Indian defense recording two outs at home plate to get out of the first down only 1-0.
“… Which is just insane,” Gibson said of recording two outs at the plate.
Newton evened things up in the bottom of the first as Rappold singled with one out, then back-to-back two-out errors allowed pinch runner Marissa Deeter to score to make it 1-1. And in the top of the third, second baseman Kara Chaney erased a leadoff bunt single by Lauren Monnin, snaring a hard liner on the next batter and doubling off the runner to end that threat — and giving the Indians the chance to take the lead in the bottom of the inning.
They jumped on the opportunity, too. Rappold led off with a double over the right fielder’s head, then Dunlevy drove her in with an RBI triple and Fisher followed with an RBI double to give the Indians a 3-1 lead.
Russia got a run back in the fourth on an RBI single by Jenna Cordonnier, but the Indians took control for good in the bottom half. Ashlyn Deeter and Baily Chaney led off with back-to-back singles, then Dunlevy drove a two-run triple to the fence in right to make it a 5-2 game, and she scored on an RBI sac fly by Fisher to give the Indians a four-run lead.
“Hitting just became contagious,” Gibson said. “It seems like if somebody can get going, everybody gets going. And Mallory has been working her butt off. I’m talking staying after practice every day to work on her swing, and she’s never satisfied with where she’s at — which is a good thing and bad thing. Probably one of the hardest workers on our team, and I’m just proud of the way she came through.”
Russia got a run back in the top of the fifth on an RBI sac fly by Grace Saunders, but an RBI triple by Ashlyn Deeter in Newton’s half of the inning bumped the lead back to four. And after Norman came in and pitched a one-two-three top of the sixth, Fisher yanked a solo homer over the fence in left-center to give the Indians one final jolt offensively. Kacie Tackett then singled and scored on an RBI double by Weaver, and the score was 9-3 Newton.
“Kylee, the pitch before, she had probably the worst swing I’ve seen from her in the last week,” Gibson said. “She just kind of whiffed at the ball. She looked down at me and I just said swing the bat. She swung once, it looked beautiful, and she got back in the box and just hit. Turn your brain off and go hit — that’s her. She’s done that for us all year.”
Lauren Monnin began one final Russia rally in the top of the seventh with a bunt single, and the Raiders loaded the bases with no outs. Norman got a strikeout for the first out, then Shea Borchers hit an RBI fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with two outs. Cordonnier followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it 9-5 and put runners on first and second, but a runner’s interference call on a grounder to short ended the game.
Rappold went five innings for the Indians, giving up 10 hits, two walks and three runs while striking out two. Norman gave up three hits, a walk and two runs while striking out three in the final two innings of work.
“Kristen and Erin have kind of been one-A and one-B for us — we really don’t have a No. 1,” Gibson said. “It’s just been a huge complement to Kristen to be able to have Erin come in. They work off of each other very well. And Russia came out and put the ball in play a lot, but the defense was behind them both. We made some great plays.”
Saunders went the distance for Russia, giving up 15 hits and nine runs with zero walks or strikeouts.
Lauren Monnin was 4 for 4 with three runs scored to lead Russia, Cordonnier was 2 for 4 with two RBIs, Courts was 3 for 4 with an RBI, Borchers was 2 for 4 with an RBI and Saunders had an RBI.
For Newton, Dunlevy was 2 for 4 with two triples and three RBIs, Fisher was 2 for 3 with a double, a homer and three RBIs, Ashlyn Deeter was 3 for 3 with a triple and an RBI, Weaver doubled and had an RBI, Rappold and Tackett were each 2 for 4 with a double and Baily Chaney was 2 for 4.
Newton advances to the district final to face Fayetteville Perry this weekend at a site and time to be decided.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.