By RYAN INGRAM
FORT WAYNE —
New Albany will play for its third straight 9-10-year-old state championship on Thursday after Tuesday’s four-inning, 10-0 win over Auburn in the state semifinals at Jeff/GRC Little League.
“It’s an honor to play for state,” New Albany centerfielder David Newbanks said. “Now I want to win state.”
New Albany will face either Bedford or Highland. Lightning delayed the second semifinal. It will be played on Wednesday, moving the championship game to Thursday night.
“I expect either one of them to give us a really good game,” New Albany manager Josh Biven said. “They can both hit and play some defense, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
New Albany has outscored the four opponents on its side of the bracket, including Auburn twice, by a combined 50-3. Three of the four games, including a pair of 10-0 victories over Auburn, were won via the 10-run rule.
But whoever emerged between Bedford and Highland came from the side of the bracket New Albany has yet to face.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Biven said. “We’ve been in good games and had to come-from-behind against Terre Haute [in a 12-3 victory] on Saturday, we beat Jeff in a game that was 0-0 in the fifth inning in the district championship. The boys are relaxed and ready for anything tight. It should be fun.”
After New Albany beat Auburn 10-0 on Friday, Auburn beat North Posey then upset Terre Haute North — the team that gave New Albany the most trouble — 6-5 on Monday to get to the semifinal round.
The New Albany coaches and players expected an Auburn opponent that was hungry for revenge and a spot in tonight’s championship.
“I thought they’d be ready to come back a little more than the first game,” New Albany starting pitcher Josh Castleman said. “Yesterday they came up on Terre Haute, but we were confident we were going to win.”
“They beat Terre Haute last night, so they were excited,” Newbanks said. “We had to put on our A-game tonight.”
Put on its A-game is exactly what New Albany did.
After Castleman blanked Auburn in the first inning, RBI singles by Ray Reisinger and Newbanks and a throwing error on a double steal gave New Albany a 3-0 lead after one inning.
It was 4-0 after Austin Oppel’s single plated Tucker Biven. Castleman then drew his second walk before Reisinger hit a rocket down the left-field line that cleared the bases.
“Ray hit that ball down the line like a man,” Biven said. “He pulled it like he was supposed to on an inside pitch. He crushed that ball down the line.”
Newbanks then drove in Reisinger with a double and his second RBI to give New Albany a 7-0 advantage after two innings.
“Every inning we somehow score runs,” Newbanks said. “We’re just stacked on offensive players.”
“Everybody’s just been hitting the ball real well,” Castleman said. “We’ve been hitting shots in the gaps where they can’t get to it.”
After Hunter Sprigler held Auburn scoreless in the third and fourth, New Albany closed the game with a flurry.
Oppel singled and Castleman doubled to put runners on second and third. After a Reisinger sacrifice fly brought home Oppel, Newbanks blasted his second double to the center-field fence to make it 9-0. Luke Vick then smashed a double into the left-center gap that allowed Newbanks to cross the plate with the game-ending run.
“We were excited that if we just score three runs we’re in the state finals,” Newbanks said.
“We wanted to get those three runs, get it over with and watch Bedford and Highland battle it out,” Biven said.
Newbanks led the New Albany offense with a 3-for-3, three-RBI performance. Newbanks was coming off of a four-RBI outing in Saturday’s win over North.
“I was in a slump during district, but I came out of it now and I just crushed the ball,” Newbanks explained.
“He hit the ball hard the last couple games,” Biven said. “Tonight was just David Newbanks being David Newbanks. That’s where we need him in the five hole and I think he’ll be ready to go tomorrow night.”
Reisinger went 2-for-2 with four knocked in and a pair of runs, Oppel was 2-for-2 and scored three times and Castleman had a double, drew a pair of walks and also scored three times.
“Our two, three, four and five hitters have been there for us basically all year,” Biven said of Oppel, Castleman, Reisinger and Newbanks.
LITTLE LEAGUE 9-10 BASEBALL
NEW ALBANY 10, AUBURN 0
Auburn 000 0— 0 1 1
New Albany 340 3—10 11 0
W — Josh Castleman. L — Nolan Nack. 2B — David Newbanks 2 (N), Castleman (N), Luke Vick (N). 3B — Ray Reisinger (N).
Records — Auburn 3-2, Scottsburg New Albany 4-0.