By Josh Brown
PLEASANT HILL — The Newton softball team may have only played five games this season, but two of those have been against fellow co-Cross County Conference champions from last season.
And Thursday’s win over National Trail was a bit of payback for the Indians.
Newton (4-1, 2-0 CCC) battled back and forth with the Blazers for five innings, taking control with a three-run fifth-inning rally to go up by one, and then the Indians put the game away with a four-run sixth to knock off National Trail 9-4 Thursday in yet another early-season CCC showdown.
The Indians, who defeated Covington last week, lost to the Blazers (2-1, 0-1 CCC) on the road last season, one of only two league losses for Newton last year. Newton, National Trail, Covington and Arcanum all ended up sharing the league title with 10-2 records — meaning the Indians have grabbed the early advantage this season.
“They beat us at their place and ended up tying us for the conference,” Newton coach Mark Gibson said. “This was a big game for us to not repeat that.”
Instead, Newton practically repeated Saturday’s matchup at Troy, where the Indians trailed 3-2 going into the seventh but another big late-inning rally led to a 10-3 win.
Part of that on Thursday, though, was due to the solid effort early by National Trail starter Molly Skinner, who held the Indians to only three hits through four innings. One of those hits was a two-out, two-run single in the third inning by Kristen Rappold, though, that tied the score at 2-2 at the time.
“I’ll tell you what, their pitcher did a great job the first four innings of keeping us off balance,” Gibson said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming into the game against them — they had a really good pitcher last year that threw hard and threw a good riseball, but we were out on our front foot all the way through the first four innings today. Popping everything up, grounding out — their shortstop had a field day.
“Those first four innings, our timing was off hitting-wise, and that’s what hitting is. You’ve got to have your timing right. But once we adjusted, yeah, it was the same thing that happened at Troy. Hitting is just contagious.”
Rappold was equally tough on the mound for the Indians, though, only giving up two runs through the first four, as well. An RBI single by Kaylee Minner and a run-scoring wild pitch gave the Blazers a 2-0 lead after two, but the score remained tied 2-2 after four.
Trail retook the lead in the top of the fifth, though. An infield single by Aerial Lee and a dropped fly ball in the outfield put two runners on, and a single by Savannah Abner loaded the bases with one out. After Rappold got a called third strike for the second out, Mckenna Laird blooped a two-run single just inside the right-field line to put the Blazers up 4-2.
And that’s when Newton broke the game open.
Kara Chaney drew a leadoff walk and Ashlyn Deeter beat out a bunt single, with an error on a throw to third allowing Chaney to score on the play. Baily Chaney then drove an RBI single back up the middle, and Rappold found the gap in right-center for an RBI double to give the Indians a 5-4 lead after five.
Rappold sat the Blazers down one-two-three in the top of the sixth, and the Indian offense went right back to work. Mallory Dunlevy drew a walk to lead off, then pinch hitter Marissa Deeter slapped a single to the left side to put two runners on. Kara Chaney bunted them to second and third with two outs and pinch hitter Erin Norman drew a walk to load the bases for the top of the lineup.
Baily Chaney cashed them in, hitting a bloop two-run single to right field, and then Rappold ripped a two-run single back up the middle to put the game well out of reach.
The Blazers got a two-out double by Abner in the top of the seventh, but Rappold forced a weak groundout to short to end the game.
Rappold finished the game 3 for 4 with a double and five RBIs and Baily Chaney was 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
“Baily had three RBIs and Kristen had five — eight of our nine runs were driven in by those two. That’s huge,” Gibson said. “Kristen’s just such a good hitter, and Baily’s been working so hard in the offseason to become a good leadoff hitter, and today she saw the results of that work.”
But with the first two hitters driving in eight runs, that meant the back half of the lineup was getting on base regularly. Ashlyn Deeter was 2 for 2 with two runs and Kara Chaney was 1 for 1 with a walk and two runs as the No. 8 and 9 hitters went a combined 3 for 3 with two walks, a sacrifice and five runs scored. Marissa Deeter was also 1 for 1 with a run and Dunlevy walked twice and scored once.
“Kara set the tone with that nice single in the third that started that rally,” Gibson said. “And Ashlyn had a tough day in the field, but getting two bunts down and beating them both out is huge. Baily and Kristen were both driving in runs behind her — I mean, if we can put the ball in the outfield, with the speed Ashlyn has, she can score from first base. Same with Marissa.
“Marissa, when she pinch hit in the sixth and laid down that soft slap to the left side … she’s a natural righty. She’s never slapped before this year, and she’s been working her butt off on it in the preseason, learning from the left side, and that was the first time she’s gotten on with it. It couldn’t have been any better.”
Rappold also went the distance on the mound, scattering seven hits and a walk while striking out nine.
“We got to the fifth, and I asked how she was feeling. She said she was fine,” Gibson said. “This is the first complete game she’s thrown this year. We’ve been working her in slowly, and this was the first time we let her go the distance. It was nice to be able to get this win, especially after they beat us last year.”
Newton picked up a matchup on the road against Parkway Friday, then the Indians travel to Riverside for a doubleheader Saturday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.