Newton Falls beats Champion, extends win streak

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Newton Falls junior Cameron Huff fires a pitch during the team’s 5-2 victory over Champion on Tuesday.

CHAMPION — “Just put the ball in play,” is a common sentiment by coaches — for obvious reasons. One bounce and your team is on base.

That worked for Newton Falls on Tuesday, as a couple favorable bounces led to a five-run fourth inning that helped propel the Tigers past Champion in a 5-2 victory over the Flashes.

“It just takes a couple (hits),” Newton Falls coach Chad Rankin said. “We always preach, ‘Just put the ball in play and make them make a play.’ They made a couple errors there, we got runners on, and just moved them and you know, it’s contagious.”

The win completes a season sweep over Champion, which according to Rankin, hasn’t happened in quite some time.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “We were just talking, and I don’t think we’ve swept Champion in a decade. We’re usually on the other end, with run rules and all this, and it was great to get a win last night and come here on their home field and get a win and close it out.”

It hasn’t been an easy ride this season by any means. The Tigers started off 0-4-1 before getting their first win over LaBrae on April 10. Since then, Newton Falls (9-7-1) has only lost three more times and is on a six-game win streak.

“There was a game in Tennessee where we had 12 errors in one game and got run-ruled. We’ve been preaching, moving some people around and the defense has been solid (since then),” Rankin said. “People have been making plays. Leland Vargo, freshman at shortstop, has been awesome this year and has been a huge difference, but the icing has been Cameron Huff on the mound. He’s a dog. You don’t even have to think about taking him out. I don’t know if you noticed, but I didn’t make any mound trips. Didn’t matter what his situation was, his pitch count was 120. He’s riding all the way, we’re riding him.”

Like how their rival’s season has been a roller coaster, Champion can say the same about its 2024 campaign.

The young team has dealt with both the costs and benefits of youth depending on the day. Tuesday was one of the cost days.

“We’ve looked real good at times and we’ve looked young at times,” Flashes coach Andrew Barker said. “A lot of times facing guys like Huff, we can struggle, and then there’s other days where we get 20 hits. It’s been an up and down season. These boys are working their behinds off. They’re doing everything we asked them and sometimes you come up short.”

Champion (8-8) travels to Garfield on Thursday for another league battle.

Newton Falls closes the year out with a pair of games against both Campbell and Liberty and a game with Jackson-Milton in between. Today, they’ll face the Red Devils on the road.

With the tournament fast approaching, both teams are gearing up for some fierce battles in the Division III bracket.

“We just need to keep rolling and keep getting better every day,” Rankin said. “We’re on kind of a heater right now with six in a row, and we got I think we got five games left. We need to battle, battle, battle, and the tournament draw is on Sunday and I hope we get a good draw.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.


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