By RYAN INGRAM
NEW ALBANY —
New Albany’s 9-10-year-old All-Stars scored early and often, collecting 17 hits in a 17-2 win over Highlander Youth Recreation at Mt. Tabor Park on Thursday.
It was the final game for both teams in the pool play portion of the District 5 Little League tournament. New Albany’s record improved to 4-0, while HYR fell to 2-2.
New Albany will face Silver Creek and HYR will battle Jeff/GRC in today’s 9-10 semifinals. Jeff and New Albany both finished pool play unbeaten.
On Thursday, New Albany’s Josh Castleman sent two high fly balls over the center field fence, one in each of the first two innings. In all, Castleman went 3-for-4 with four RBIs. The home runs were number three and four for Castleman in the tournament.
“Josh has hit it hard this whole tournament,” New Albany coach Josh Biven said, “but actually, his other hits are more impressive. I don’t think I would want to stand in front of the line drives he hits.”
New Albany catcher Austin Oppel was a perfect 4-for-4 at the dish, driving in three runs. He is hitting an astounding .714 with 10 total hits for the tournament.
“Austin’s doing a really good job. David Newbanks is a catcher also, but we’re using him in centerfield because he’s such a good centerfielder. Austin stepped into [the catching] role and is doing really well,” said Biven.
HYR opened the scoring with one run in the top of the first inning. With two on and two out Liam Fitzgerald’s sharp grounder found its way through the left side of the infield to score Ryan Adamson from third.
New Albany answered quickly, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first. The first two runs came on Castleman’s first home run. The next batter, Ray Reisinger, hit a grounder past the outstretched glove of the shortstop, moved to second on David Newbanks’ soft fly to short center, to third when Luke Vick’s fly found open ground beyond third base and came home when Hunter Sprigler singled through the right side. Newbanks scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 New Albany.
Reisinger came in to pitch in the second inning, replacing Castleman. He gave up one hit — a single to left by Cole Franks. That hit was sandwiched between a pop up to short, a strikeout and a soft come backer to the mound that ended the inning.
New Albany sent 15 batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, amassing nine runs on eight hits in the inning. Oppel and Kaden Elliott both outran a throw to first on grounders to the left side. Tucker Biven and pinch-hitter Mitchell Meyer both singled to right field before Oppel hit a two-RBI double that careened off the wall for his second hit of the inning. Castleman followed with his second home run, another two-run shot to center, to give New Albany a 13-1 lead through two innings.
Newbanks took the mound in the third. After hitting the first batter he faced, the defense was able to get the lead runner out at second on a fielder’s choice ground ball to third and again on one to first, keeping HYR out of scoring position.
Ashton Nicholson then hit a line drive up the middle and Kade Reynolds reached on an error to load the bases with two out for HYR. Newbanks walked pinch-hitter Casey Sorg to bring in Fitzgerald from third, but he rebounded with a strikeout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third New Albany plated four more runs, increasing the lead to 17-2.
Murphy led off with a line drive up the middle and moved into scoring position on a passed ball. Nick Sexton drove him in with a hard hit line drive double that stayed just inside the foul stripe in left field. Sexton scored on a “seeing eye” fly ball that fell in down the line in short right field by Oppel. It was Oppel’s for his fourth hit.
Castleman added his third hit on a single past the shortstop. Reisinger drew a walk to load the bases for Newbanks, whose single just over the shortstop’s head brought in Oppel.
Castleman scored on a grounder to the right side by Elliott before a pop fly to the second baseman ended the inning.
Oppel pitched the top of the fourth to close out the victory.
Like New Albany, Jeff/GRC will enter today’s semifinals with an unblemished record after a 21-8 win over Clarksville on Thursday.
Jeff led just 7-6 going into the bottom of the third before scoring 14 runs in its the final inning.
Logan Ungren went 2-for-3, including a grand slam and a three-RBI double, to lead Jeff. Stevie Kendrick went 2-for-2 and knocked in a pair of runs, Eric Wigginton went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored and Michael Casey scored a pair of runs for Jeff.