SACRED HEART — Undefeated through the first two weekends of the Region 4C amateur baseball tournament, New London-Spicer and Raymond locked horns on Friday without much at stake.
Each team already earned spots in next week’s Class C State Tournament. While there wasn’t much in the line, the action at the Sacred Heart Baseball Field still featured plenty of drama.
With two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Twins third baseman Ben Kulset delivered at the dish, lifting a fly ball that dropped just inside the right-field line. Pinch-running for first baseman Scott Rambow, who opened the inning with a leadoff single, Jett Salonek scored the go-ahead run and propelling the home team on the scoreboard to a 2-1 victory.
New London-Spicer will play in the Region 4C Championship game on Sunday.
“I was basically just hoping and when I saw it land fair, I was filled with excitement,” Kulset said. “I haven’t been hitting well all year, so it was just a relief off my shoulders to actual get a hit during clutch time.”
Prior to Kulset’s at-bat, right fielder John Perkins, who had two hits in the ballgame, was intentionally walked. Facing Rockets starter Jose Rosario, Kulset, the No. 9 hitter in the Twins lineup, took a cut at the first pitch, a fastball low and away. When the ball reached the outfield, Kulset earned his first career walk-off base hit.
“I knew I needed to have confidence because it’s almost like a slap in the face when they walk the guy in front of you to get to you,” Kulset said. “I went up there and wanted to make him pay. It worked out for me this time, just looking for a good pitch to hit.”
The Twins struck first in the bottom of the second. Rambow led off the frame with a single off Rosario, and advanced to third following back-to-back groundouts. With the game’s opening run standing 90 feet away, Perkins sent an 1-0 delivery through the right side of the infield to give New London-Spicer an 1-0 advantage.
Attacking early in the count throughout Rosario’s stint on the mound, the Twins were aggressive at the plate.
“That’s really just our hitters and the way we’ve been,” NLS head coach Jamie Scheevel said.
“The way we’ve been, we don’t want to get behind in the count, so that’s totally fine that we stayed aggressive early.”
New London-Spicer right-hander Adam Nibaur was sharp through the first five innings of his start, allowing just three soft hits during that stretch.
However, the Rockets, using their opponent’s approach, finally began to produce sharp contact in the middle frames.
With its first three batters swinging on the first pitch in the top of the sixth, Raymond had runners on first and second with only one out before Calvin Kosminskas tied the game with a stinging RBI single through the left side of the infield.
Raymond had runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh, but only had one run to show for it.
“It’s where you hit the ball, I guess,” Rockets head coach Butch Steen said. “They had about three double plays that I know of, so we were making contact and a lot of times it was good contact, but it just didn’t happen tonight.”
Working around an error in the top of the ninth, Nibaur did not relinquish a hit past the seventh to earn the complete-game triumph.
“He was throwing strikes, he was around the zone the whole time,” Scheelvel said. “He didn’t really walk anybody, had a few hit batters which is going to happen sometimes. But he was in a groove and when he’s in a groove, we just let him go. He’s been our best pitcher all year.”