By Dan Hardenbrook

The Newberry varsity baseball team finally got back on the field last Thursday, their first time playing at home for the 2023 season. Several recent games had been canceled due to poor weather, and Thursday’s games offered the team their second chance for outdoor play this season.

The lack of game action and simulated activities in practice showed as the team got caught in unfamiliar spots while the offense struggled against live pitching in a pair of conference losses, dropping game one by a score of 5-1 and game two 10-6. The Indians put up a tough fight against a similarly young Panthers squad.

While the Indians continue to build around their core of sophomores, Pickford is leaning on young players who accelerated to varsity level in a strong travel program last summer. The first game featured two bright young competitors with impressive pitching performances.

Matthew Rahilly was strong again, pitching his second straight complete game to start the season. He allowed just two hits and two walks, while striking out a season- and career-high 14 batters in the contest. Only two of the Panthers five runs were earned; the rest came on a couple of errors that set the Panthers up to break the game open late. Ethan Salter, a senior for the Indians, continued his hot start at the plate, reaching base twice.

The Indians scattered six hits, but had trouble stringing them together to score. Connor Carlson drew a walk and worked his way around the bases to score the Indians’ lone run. The second game of the doubleheader was a roller coaster ride that saw the Indians fall behind, rally back to take a lead, then fade in a 10-6 loss. Both sides had opportunities early, but pitchers Ethan Pavey and Braylon Rounds kept their teams in it with big outs in key moments.

Errors again doomed the Indians: a dropped pop up twisted in the wind to land fair behind first base; a dropped fly ball–which would’ve ended the inning–led to two runs scored. Pickford pulled ahead 5-0 after three innings. Down but not out, the Indians put together their best inning of the season in response, coming back with six runs to take the lead on multiple big hits and aggressive baserunning. Salter, Stephen Allen, Jude Taylor, Levi Maki, and Ethan Pavey all reached base during the key stretch that saw the Indians take their first lead of the game.

The Panthers switched things up, switching pitchers to throw the Indians off. A substitution error limited the ability for the Indians to adjust and respond, and the Panthers took advantage late going up 8-6 before finishing the 10-6 win. At 0-4, the Indians are now in their toughest stretch of the season. Monday’s game against a strong Soo team will be rescheduled. Up next is a matchup against defending Division 4 State semifinalist Rudyard on Thursday.

The annual Indian Invitational is Saturday with games starting at 9 a.m. The team will welcome in Brimley on Monday for another round of key conference games as well.