By Josh Brown
PLEASANT HILL — Bethel coach Brett Brookhart and Newton assistant coach Greg Kopp both could only shake their heads.
For two men that have spent their lives around the game of baseball, Tuesday’s matchup was an altogether new experience for both.
Bethel got a run in the first inning on a walk, a hit batter, a wild pitch and a passed ball, and that proved to be the game’s only run as Newton’s Rhett Gipe and Charlie Walker combined to throw a no-hitter … but sophomore Kenton Egbert was equally masterful and threw a two-hit shutout to lead the Bees to a highly-unusual 1-0 victory Tuesday at Newton High School in their season opener, as well as the Cross County Conference opener for both teams.
“This is my 17th year here and my 24th year coaching high school baseball. I’ve never been part of a game where the winning team didn’t have a hit,” Brookhart said.
“I’ve never been part of a game where the winning team didn’t get any hits, or a losing team, until today, threw a no-hitter and still lost,” said Kopp, who was coaching for Newton head coach Jordan Kopp, who missed the game with an illness.
Brookhart knew coming in that his Bees (1-0, 1-0 CCC) would likely have a tough day at the plate, as it was their first time outdoors on a field this season.
“I knew offensively we were going to struggle a little bit. We haven’t had a scrimmage game — we haven’t had anything,” he said. “We haven’t seen good live pitching, and we saw good live pitching today. Our timing was off offensively. We’re going to hit. It’s all a timing thing. In the cages, it’s a lot different, and we saw good pitching today.”
The Bees were able to capitalize on one chance in the first inning, though. Perry Casto was hit by a pitch with one out, but he was out at second as Christian White hit into a fielder’s choice. Hunter Shelley then drew a walk, the runners moved up to second and third on a wild pitch and White scored on a passed ball to make it 1-0 Bethel early.
From there, it was all Egbert and the Bethel defense.
The sophomore struck out 11, walked two and allowed only two hits in the game — both singles by Gipe, who finished 2 for 3. He threw four one-two-three innings, and the Indians (3-1, 0-1 CCC) only stranded three baserunners in the game. And for not taking the field yet this season, the Bethel defense was solid behind him, committing zero errors.
“Kenton obviously threw well, and defensively, we made plays behind him,” Brookhart said. “We made the routine plays, we caught the fly balls — it’s a lot different from when I hit them out on the football field. They made the routine plays that kept us right in the game.”
The defense made one critical play, too. With Newton’s Noah Williams on second base and two outs in the third inning, Williams attempted to steal third, and the Bethel catcher sent the throw into left field. But Casto was backing up the play and gunned out Williams at the plate, keeping the Bees ahead by one.
That would be the only chance Egbert allowed, too. A single by Gipe and a walk left Newton runners stranded on first and second in the fourth inning, then Gipe led off the seventh with an infield single — only to be caught stealing on a blown hit-and-run as the batter failed to make contact on the pitch.
“I went out there (after the leadoff single), and Kenton said he wanted to finish it,” Brookhart said. “He’s only a sophomore, and he’s only going to get better. He wanted to finish the thing, too. I was getting a little leery because his pitch count was getting up there, but he wanted it and wanted it bad.”
Gipe pitched five innings of no-hit baseball for Newton, striking out six — but also hitting five batters and walking three. Walker pitched an inning, walking one himself and striking out one as the Bees left nine runners stranded in the game despite not having any hits.
“Obviously, we walked way too many,” Kopp said. “We hit five guys. But when they did put the ball in play, we played really good defense. And when we swung the bat, we hit the ball hard. But we just don’t swing it enough.
“Bethel did a good job. They took our small ball away from us, and when they did that, we had no choice but to swing — and we’re not used to that. We took way too many pitches. Bethel will swing the bats better at the end of the year, and so will we.”
Bethel travels to Tri-Village Thursday, while Newton travels to Covington Thursday.
“Our first game out on a field, and we beat a good team,” Brookhart said. “Not only is it huge that we won the game, it’s a conference win against one of the better teams in the conference.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.