|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. The Newport Central Catholic baseball players and coaches watch during Monday's 9th Region Quarterfinal game against Dixie Heights. The Thoroughbreds won 11-1 in five innings.|
But in the quarterfinals Monday at University of Cincinnati Medical Center Field, the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds reminded people why they've won the region tournament three times since 2008. NewCath put together solid pitching, defense and hitting in an 11-1 five-inning run-ruling of the 34th District champion Dixie Heights Colonels (22-13 overall) in the last game of the day.
"The kids played well," said Jeff Schulkens, NewCath Head Coach. "We came out aggressive in the first inning. Getting out on top against a good baseball team was big for us."
The 36th District runner-up Thoroughbreds (15-19) won their first region tournament game since beating Highlands, 3-1 on May 31, 2012 for its last region crown. NewCath lost to Dixie Heights, 2-1 in the region quarterfinals in 2013 and did not advance to the region tournament last year.
"These kids believe they have a chance to win," Schulkens said. "That's what we practice. When we came out here, I said any of the eight teams here could win it. There are others that are a little bit better than us, but there's no reason we can't go out and win it. It's the team that relaxes, plays smart baseball and executes. That's what we did."
NewCath started its ace in senior Grant Moeves. Moeves responded with a complete game striking out five and walking none. Moeves limited the Colonels to just 2-for-17 for a .118 batting average and one earned run.
"I was just trying to mix it up a lot, trying to keep it low and outside," Moeves said. "My curveball was breaking really well, so they were having trouble hitting that."
NewCath played error-free defense behind Moeves. Moeves retired the first nine Dixie Heights batters before Ethan Harrison tripled to lead off the fourth inning and scored when Royce McGee grounded out. NewCath led 8-1 at that point.
Offensively, the Thoroughbreds hit the three Dixie Heights pitchers well going 13-for-26 at the plate for a .500 average. All nine slots recorded at least one run or hit. Nate Enslen led NewCath going 3-for-3 with a run batted in and three runs scored. Teammates Brandon Gray went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and Spencer Pangallo went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Zack Pangallo added a triple and Griff McHugh doubled for the Thoroughbreds.
"This year, we want to make a name for ourselves," Spencer Pangallo said. "We just had to come out and play our game. Baseball is that kind of game where when one person gets a hit, it gets everyone up. It's a team game and we play well together."
NewCath had just five RBI in the game. The Thoroughbreds scored three runs off Dixie Heights wild pitches, two more off the two Colonel errors and another when Dixie Heights threw to another base.
The Thoroughbreds scored at least three runs off all three Colonel pitchers. Chris Conradi started the game before JT Breeden relieved him in the second inning. Griffin Smallwood then took over for Breeden in the fourth inning.
NewCath scored its first run in its first at-bat. Gray led off with a single and Zack Pangallo bunted him to second. Gray moved to third when Spencer Pangallo singled and scored when Dixie Heights threw to second off the bat of Moeves.
The Thoroughbreds broke the game open with four runs in the second inning. It started with one out when McHugh doubled and Samuel Kaelin ran for him. Kaelin took third when Bryson Hightchew grounded out and scored when Enslen singled. Gray then singled Enslen to second and they both scored when Zack Pangallo tripled. Zack Pangallo then scored on a wild pitch to increase the Thoroughbred lead to 5-0.
The Thoroughbreds extended the margin to 6-0 in the third inning. Clint Bartels singled, stole second, took third when Josh Schneider grounded out and scored on a wild pitch.
NewCath increased the lead to 8-0 in the fourth inning. Enslen scored when Spencer Pangallo singled and Gray scored on an error.
The Thoroughbreds scored three more times in the fifth inning. Schneider walked before Hightchew and Enslen singled to load the bases with one out and John Harris ran for Hightchew. Schneider scored and the other two moved up on a wild pitch. Harris then scored on an error and Enslen scored when Zack Pangallo hit into a fielder's choice.
NewCath takes on 33rd District champion Ryle (20-16) in the region semifinals on Tuesday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.