By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Over the years, Newton senior Ryan Mollette got to watch as graduate — and relative — Treg Jackson pitched the Indians to three straight sectional titles at Duke Park.
Monday, Mollette got to join him.
Mollette was in control from the start against fourth-seeded Franklin Monroe, striking out nine and only allowing a grand total of five baserunners as he pitched a three-hit shutout, leading the second-seeded Indians to a 6-0 victory in the Division IV sectional championship game Monday at Duke Park, giving Newton four sectional titles in the past five years.
In 2015, Jackson began the Indians’ run with a 4-0 shutout of Tri-Village at Covington. The next two seasons, he pitched Newton to victories in games played at Duke Park — 3-2 over Twin Valley South in 2016 and 8-1 over Troy Christian in 2017. Last year, the Indians, seeded No. 1 at the time, were upset in the second round 1-0 by Southeastern.
Monday, Mollette added his name to that list of stellar pitching performances.
“It feels really good,” Mollette said. “I’ve looked up to those guys, Treg and Cole (Weaver). I mean, Treg’s my cousin, so I’ve always been around him. They’re perfect examples and awesome influences for me to become the best pitcher possible.”
“We lost a lot (to graduation) last year, so I wasn’t sure what we were going to have,” Newton coach Jordan Kopp said. “For us to be 22-4 and to be where we are with what we lost, it gives a lot of credit to our seniors and to the guys that committed in the summer. And some of our sophomores and juniors got some runs in today in some crucial situations, so I’m really proud of all of the guys.
“Ryan threw the best game he has all year. Before the game, we talked about starting guys off with the curveball then challenging them on the back end with the fastball. He maybe didn’t get ahead of as many hitters as he wanted to, but we got into a lot of 1-1 counts where we could start attacking with the fastball, and that was successful.”
In Newton’s first-round game, a 9-0 win over Catholic Central, Mollette was unable to go the distance as he hit the pitch limit in the sixth. On Monday, though, he was incredibly efficient, throwing 97 total pitches with only three hits, one runner reaching on an error and one walk to go with those nine strikeouts. Mollette also picked a runner off base as the Jets — who the Indians defeated 13-4 during the regular season — only left four runners on base on the day.
“My curveball was really working, so I was spinning that in and throwing it with the slider,” Mollette said when asked the difference between the first- and second-round games. “I started throwing a slider at the end of the year, and it’s been working a heck of a lot. It’s throwing people off and giving me my two-seam option out of the zone for them to swing at.”
Kopp’s answer was more simple — he threw strikes.
“That’s exactly why,” Kopp said. “He was around the zone, and when he got ahead, he made guys chase it. And as a pitcher, when you can make guys chase, you’re going to be super effective. And that’s what he did.”
Runs were at a premium for both teams throughout much of the game, too, as Franklin Monroe’s Brenden Hosler kept the game scoreless through 3 1-2 innings. In the bottom of the fourth, though, Newton finally broke through.
Charlie Walker — who was hit three times in the game — led off by getting plunked for the second time on the night. Cameron Caldwell then singled and Ross Ferrell beat out a bunt single to load the bases with no outs, and Caden Sweitzer was able to work an RBI base-on-balls on a full count for the game’s first run. After a strikeout, Patrick Hughes hit an RBI groundout to short to make it a 2-0 game, and the Indians left the bases loaded to end the inning — and the score remained 2-0 after six.
“I was getting a little nervous, but I knew our guys could put some hits together and get some more runs on the board for me, some insurance for late in the game,” Mollette said.
The Indians came through with a big two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth.
Hughes kicked it off with a two-out walk and took second on a wild pitch, then he scored on an RBI single up the middle by Mitchell Montgomery to make it a three-run game. Mollette was then intentionally walked and Nate Zielinski reached on a wild pitch on strike three, then Walker fought back from down 0-2 and was hit by a pitch on a full count to force in another run. An error off the bat of Caldwell scored two more runs, and the Indians led 6-0 going into the seventh — and Mollette sat the Jets down one-two-three to end it.
For the game, Ferrell was 2 for 4, while Walker was 1 for 1 but reached all four times, driving in a run and scoring once. Montgomery was 1 for 2 with an RBI and Hughes and Sweitzer each drove in a run.
“Charlie hasn’t had the year he’d like, but his on-base percentage is probably double or triple his batting average,” Kopp said. “And that’s because he’s a selfless player. He’ll take pitches, he got hit three times tonight, and he’s the perfect teammate. He’ll do whatever it takes. I’m really happy for him and for our seniors.”
The Indians still had no idea who they would be playing once their game ended, as Fort Loramie and Russia were scoreless in extra innings. In the end, the No. 6 Raiders upset top-seeded Fort Loramie 1-0 in 10 innings, setting up a rematch of the 2015 and 2017 district finals. Newton will face Russia in the district final Wednesday at Versailles High School
“Whoever we play, we’ll be ready,” Kopp said. “It’s high school baseball, and it’s tournament time — anything can happen. I remember going in as the No. 1 seed and getting upset, and I remember upsetting some teams. Anything can happen in high school baseball. Getting to the district final is one of our goals each year, and we’re really excited about that. Every day is a little different, and we’re hoping they come ready to play — and whoever it is, we’ll be excited to take them on.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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