New Covenant baseball has needed several comebacks and weathered close games over their playoff run, but no such comeback would be necessary in the Class 1 State Semifinal on Tuesday. The Warriors jumped on Northwest (Hughesville) early and never looked back on the way to a 5-0 win.
New Covenant struck for two runs in the first inning. With two outs, Catcher Caleb Fernelius brought pinch runner Ryan Carmack home with a single. The next batter Ian Poe knocked a single to center to bring home Fernilus’s pinch runner Timothy Carmack to make it 2-0.
"The team that gets ahead in postseason very frequently wins because the other team tightens just a little bit. Those two runs in the first were huge," New Covenant head coach John Hartley said. "By the time we got the three in the third with the Minnesota Moose (starting pitcher Cody Malan) out there, we felt pretty good about where we were at."
It also provided some breathing room for Malan who was battling a head cold.
"I just (thought) 'okay, I can take it easy now. Just sit back and let them hit the ball'. It helped me relax a little bit," Malan said.
New Covenant put three more on the board in the top of the third to make it 5-0.
Hughesville threatened in the fifth inning getting two runners on with no outs, but a double play erased two with the next batter grounding out to shortstop Ian Poe to end the threat.
"The second half of the season he have had a whole lot of double plays. The double play in the fifth was huge. It took the wind right out of their sails," Hartley said.
"Going out there I couldn't make the strikeouts, but we made the plays. It is just good having them have my back," Malan said.
Now New Covenant will play for its first title taking on defending champion Bell City.
"All I know is we are going to show up in the morning and get the ultimate honor that you can get in Missouri High School baseball, which is to play for a state championship," Hartley said. "There are no losers so either way we are excited about tomorrow, and we are big winners."
When New Covenant takes the field tomorrow for the title game their minds will be on more than just baseball, and you need to look no further than writing on their hats or the ribbons worn by their fans to see why.
"There is funeral tomorrow for one of our player's mothers. He wanted to be with us as long as he could. He is on his way home right now to be with his family for tomorrow's funeral. We wanted to be there with him, and we will be there with him in our hearts and our minds and on our hats," Hartley said. "In addition there are several others of us who have lost people too. There was a funeral in my family today. I have lost five in the last 18 months. There are others that have lost people in our family. We have a fabric marker. We keep marking them down. The pitcher tomorrow lost his grandpa in the middle of the winter. We have a long list. We make sure we carry them with us just like I think most people would. We play for ourselves, but we play for other people too. We certainly play for Him where credit needs to go. The Lord has blessed with a lot of people, but he has blessed us with a heart that means we need to remember our people."
Senior Matthew Searson will toe the rubber for New Covenant at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning against Bell City with a Class 1 State Championship on the line.
http://www.mshsaa.org/Activities/DistrictWinners.aspx?alg=3&class=1&id=3CLICK HERE FOR A FULL BOXSCORE OF THE SEMIFINAL