Note: This recap appears in the Sunday, June 2 newspaper on Page B2.
LANCASTER — Given the competition, the slick playing surface, and the rain that picked up in intensity right before the first pitch, the Tornadoes were just hoping to find some firm footing.
Unfortunately for Southern, it turned out they were washed away in those first few rain-drenched minutes.
Newark Catholic scored 11 times in the first two innings, then held on for a 12-7 win over Southern in a Division IV Regional Semifinal baseball game on Thursday afternoon at Beavers Field.
The Green Wave (22-9), ranked No. 8 in the state, limped toward the finish on Thursday but had plenty of breathing room thanks to the heavy-handed start.
“We knew…we had to play a clean game,” said Southern head coach Kyle Wickline. “I know you’re never going to be completely clean, but you got to minimize the mistakes.
“Things snowballed on us.”
The Tornadoes (18-8) walked six batters, hit another and had three errors — all in the first two innings. The plethora of mistakes appeared to be fueled in part by the wet playing conditions.
Southern starting pitcher Jensen Anderson (3-4) lasted just one inning on the mound. He walked the first three batters he faced, then hit the fourth — essentially gifting a run to the Green Wave without a swing of the bat.
Newark Catholic followed with RBI singles from Ian Stacey and Grant Myers, and a run-scoring groundout-turned-error, and the Tornadoes were down 4-0 under a steady rain.
“We probably wouldn’t have played anywhere else, that’s the positive with this facility,” Wickline said. “But we felt the mound had a major issue; it’s slick.
“They can only wear turf shoes on it,” he added, referring to the artificial surface on the entire infield. “It was a big issue I think, I think both sides would say that.
“It showed more with us because we couldn’t get the ball over the plate.”
Newark Catholic added five more runs in the second inning against Southern freshman Will Wickline. Connor Hinerman and Fischer Nance launched RBI doubles in the barrage, and the Green Wave led 11-1 after two innings.
It appeared the game was going to end that way, but the Tornadoes found their footing once the rain subsided — and long-time N.C. head coach John Cannizzaro turned to young arms to close it out.
Facing elimination in the fifth, Southern stayed alive when Billy Harmon’s deep fly ball to center found grass. Harmon hustled his way to third on the play for a triple, and then took home when a relay throw sailed into the Southern dugout.
Two hits and an error followed, and Southern pulled to within 11-3. After N.C. reliever Shae Mummey walked three straight batters — the last two with the bases loaded — the Tornadoes had cut the deficit to 11-5. Bryson Bell got a strikeout to end the inning, and the threat.
“We continued to battle, that’s the good thing,” Kyle Wickline said. “We could’ve laid down and been out of here early at 11-1. They continued to fight.”
Gage Shuler, the third Southern pitcher used, worked four solid innings and gave the Tornadoes a shot. Newark Catholic got to him for a run on a sac fly in the sixth to make it 12-5.
The Tornadoes got an RBI from Ryan Acree in the sixth, and Harmon’s RBI single in the seventh to make it interesting. But Nance, the sixth Green Wave pitcher used, was able to end it as Southern had its final out come on a failed hit-and-run play and a runner thrown out at third base on an attempted steal.
Hinerman got the win for Newark Catholic, despite pitching just the first two innings. He gave up a run, a hit and walked three against four strikeouts. Nance drove in three runs for the Green Wave, Hinerman added two hits and a RBI, and No. 9 hitter Slater Evans drove in another pair.
Harmon was sensational for Southern; The senior finished 4 for 4 at the plate with a walk, a run scored and an RBI.
The Tornadoes outhit Newark Catholic 9-8, but stranded 12 runners on base. Add in the free bases — Southern had 16 combined walks, hit batters and errors — and it’s easy to see how the ‘Does fell to 0-8 all-time against Newark Catholic in regional competition.
The Green Wave advanced to Friday’s regional final against Toronto (25-5), which knocked off Chillicothe Huntington 7-0 in Thursday’s other regional semifinal.
Southern will lose six seniors off the roster, with five filling in as starters. Still, it was a cornerstone kind of year for the Tornadoes, who had a losing record just four years ago.
“This is what we wanted to do with this group,” Kyle Wickline said. “In four years, it was a complete turnaround.”
Newark Catholic 12, Southern 7
New. Catholic 560 001 0 — 12-8-2
Southern 100 041 1 — 7-9-4
NC — Connor Hinerman, Parker Green (3), Sam Muetzel (4), Shae Mummey (5), Bryson Bell (5), Fischer Nance (7) and Mason Lohr.
Southern — Jensen Anderson, Will Wickline (2), Gage Shuler (3) and Billy Harmon.
WP — Hinerman; LP — Anderson (3-4).