By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Miami East hadn’t been taking advantage of its chances.
Against Newton Wednesday, the Vikings turned that all around.
The Miami East baseball team sent 10 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the first alone, plating five runs in the inning to take control. Pitcher Austin Rutledge never let that control slip away, getting out of a pair of early jams and then retiring the final eight batters he faced as the Vikings defeated the rival Indians 10-0 in five innings on a cold, windy and drizzly Wednesday afternoon at Miami East.
After the Vikings (1-4, 1-1 Cross County Conference) lost 7-5 at Tri-Village Tuesday night — in a game where they had the bases loaded and none out in the top of the seventh and failed to score — the Miami East players held a team meeting. And coach Barry Coomes noticed a difference right away Wednesday.
“The kids had their own team meeting after last night’s game. They talked for quite a while, about a half an hour,” Coomes said. “They came out today all pulling for each other right away. They were rooting for each other and had each other’s backs. It was nice to see. It’s always good to see leadership from the juniors and seniors like that, taking some ownership of the team. And we had some hits in key situations today for a change.
“Last night’s game was a heartbreaker. We were making a comeback and saw all that momentum go away in an instant. But they talked after the game and played well today.”
Newton coach Nathan Kopp, meanwhile, could tell his Indians (6-2, 1-1 CCC) were in a funk right away.
“It was just tough all the way around,” he said. “It felt like we didn’t even want to be here today. To come in 1-0 in the league and 6-1 overall and then not show up at all, that’s disappointing.”
Miami East drew a leadoff walk and hit-by-pitch to start the game, and after a wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third, Brandon Wilson dropped an RBI single into center field. Kyle Webb followed that by poking an RBI single the other way, and a single by Scot Kirby loaded the bases.
Newton starter Wade Ferrell got his second strikeout of the inning for the second out, but a wild pitch brought in another run and Mitchell Vernon pulled a two-run single into right field to make it a 5-0 game. Troy Denlinger came on in relief to get the Indians out of the inning, but the damage had been done.
Rutledge, meanwhile, struck out four of the first six batters he faced. With two outs in the second inning, he took a lined shot off the leg off the bat of Newton’s Charlie Walker, who reached with a single, then a walk and a balk put runners on second and third. Rutledge induced a popout to get out of the inning, though, and preserve the lead.
In the top of the third, Nash Lavy hit a one-out double, his second hit for the Indians, and a walk put two runners on again. A double steal moved them up to second and third for the second inning in a row, but Rutledge got back-to-back strikeouts to again get out of the jam — and he didn’t allow another baserunner from there.
Rutledge finished with nine strikeouts and allowed two walks and three hits in the five-inning shutout.
“Austin had a great outing,” Coomes said. “He was hitting his spots, kept his pitch count under control and the guys were behind him. We made every play in the field except one. We played much better defense.”
In the bottom of the third, the Vikings put the game away.
Webb led off with a single, Kirby drew a walk and Vernon drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Omar Seleme worked an RBI walk, another run came in on a wild pitch and Cam Coomes hit an RBI groundout for the second out. Another walk put two runners on, and Braxton Donaldson brought them all home by blasting a two-run double off the fence in left, making it a 10-0 game.
“We dug ourselves a 5-0 hole after the first, and I think it was 8-0 before they even hit a ball hard,” Kopp said. “It was just rough all the way around.”
Rutledge finished the game off from there, setting the Indians down in order in the fourth and fifth innings to wrap it up before the ever-present threat of rain became a factor.
Newton will look to bounce back Monday at Riverside.
“Baseball’s a game of failures. If you succeed three-and-a-half times out of 10, you’re an all-league player,” Kopp said. You just can’t let your lows get too low or your highs get too high. You’ve got to stay even keel. We’ll get back to work tomorrow.”
Miami East, meanwhile, will play its third CCC game in as many days, hosting Ansonia today.
“It seems like we’ve been right there in games and then had one bad inning. It’s been tough, but not today,” Coomes said. “It was nice to play at home for a change, too. Now we’ve got our third league game in a row tomorrow — and that’s a lot of league game. This was a good win for us.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.