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July 21, 2012

Wayne Newton rolls to 22-0 victory at American Legion sectional

SULLIVAN — It’s ridiculous to think that what turned out to be a sacrifice bunt could be one of the most significant plays in a 22-0 baseball game, but a case could be made for that in Friday night’s American Legion sectional game at Don Jennings Field.

When Dalton Sexton led off the top of the fourth inning with a single for Wayne Newton Post 346, the game was still a scoreless duel between left-handers Bryan Nacke of Terre Haute and Brock Dowell of Sullivan Post 139. Post 346’s next batter — cleanup hitter Tony Rosselli, the hottest bat on the team — had a brief conversation with manager John Hayes.

“I told [Rosselli] ‘I want you to bunt for a hit,’ ” Hayes recalled after the game, and Rosselli dumped the ball almost perfectly down the third-base line.

Dowell’s agility getting off the mound resulted in Rosselli being thrown out at first, but Sexton scored from second three pitches later on a hit by Sam Wolf. With two out in the inning, Preston Tofaute rolled a two-run single through the right side to make it 3-0.

And in the top of the fifth, Wayne Newton sent 19 batters to the plate and scored 15 runs.

“We scored that run [after Rosselli’s sacrifice], and that got us off the blocks,” Hayes said afterward. “And nobody was expecting our No. 4 hitter to bunt.”

Bunting was unnecessary the rest of the way as the host team — visitors on the scoreboard — peppered 19 hits and drew nine walks.

The rest of Rosselli’s day was pretty good too — three hits good for five RBIs — while Tofaute had six RBIs for the night with another two-run single and a two-run double, both those hits in the fifth frame.

But all 16 Post 346 players made a significant contribution offensively, defensively or both. And although Dowell had success early with his assortment of pitches and speeds, the Wayne Newton players were very rarely off-stride or trying to do too much.

“We’ve been preaching that to them, drive the ball up the middle,” Hayes agreed, “and tonight we were more focused than in any other game all season … and the pitchers did a really nice job.”

The 22 runs may have been 21 more than necessary, in fact, considering that Nacke and Damon Olds were dominant on the mound. Nacke had a stellar five innings, retiring 12 in a row at one point, and he and Olds combined for nine strikeouts and zero walks.

American Legion tournament rules require a game to go seven innings before a run rule can take affect, so Sullivan was in who-wants-to-pitch mode late Friday, needing to save arms for a game today and possibly one or two more on Sunday. More than one factor, in other words, contributed to the score being so one-sided.

“That doesn’t make my stomach feel any better,” Sullivan manager Craig Klitz said afterward. “[Post 346 is] a great ballclub; they do a lot of things right, they’re deep, and they’ve got a great coach in John Hayes.

“We’ve just got to bounce back and be ready against Washington [at 1 p.m. today].”

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