WINAMAC | North Newton had runners on second and third in the first inning, but it was the closest the Spartans would get to scoring in the Class 2A Winamac Sectional championship game against state No. 2-ranked Rochester on Thursday night.
The Zebras scored four runs in the sixth inning to take the sectional, 5-0.
“I don’t think we can be unhappy at all,” North Newton assistant coach Glen Cain said. “I don’t think the girls played bad tonight. They played their hearts out. On any given day, we can beat any team out there.”
Even with the loss, the Spartans ended the season with the school’s best record at 19-13.
“If anyone saw us play a few years ago, we’re an absolutely different team now," North Newton coach Amanda Suarez said. "We’ve grown by leaps and bounds. We can’t be disappointed.”
Rochester (29-1) scored in bottom of the second inning on an Arin Johnson single to center field that plated Kaelee Smith.
“I’m a big believer that the first to score is usually the first to win,” Rochester coach Carla Holland said.
North Newton had only four hits in the game.
“We knew that their pitching wasn’t going to be very overpowering," Suarez said. “It’s their defense that keeps them in games. Unfortunately, some of our hits didn’t get through, but they did what we asked them to do.”
In the sixth inning, Rylee Holland scored on an Alanie Sroufe double that put the Zebras up 2-0. Abbie Malchow singled and stole second base. Maggie Good was then called safe at first to load the bases on a play the umpire originally called her out.
Kaelee Smith hit a fly to right field. Hanna Halliar caught the ball and threw it to catcher Alyssa Cooper to get Sroufe out scoring for a double play.
A wild pitch scored Malchow, and Karli Murphy hit a two-run home run to left center field to put the Zebras up 5-0.
“We had two outs at that point, when all those runs were scored,” Cain said. “It takes the wind out of your sails when something like that happens.”
Allyson Leach pitched all seven innings for the Spartans, striking out four and allowing five hits. She also had two hits.
“We were able to scatter a little bit," Holland said. "We knew that she was very similar to Leighnee (Smith, Rochester’s pitcher). We made adjustment in practice and worked on the outside corner and were patient at the plate.”
Nicolle Babbitt had two hits for North Newton, including a double.