CALEDONIA — Fielding, hitting, and pitching are staples of any team”s success.
But a fourth ingredient — the ability to mold individual talents for the greater good — often is the determining factor when it comes time to win championships.
The New Hope High School baseball team showed again Saturday why it just might have all four elements to make a title run.
Blake Roberts, Jake Smith, and Gabe Franks combined on a one-hitter, and Davis Lee went 3-for-4 to lead New Hope to a 7-2 victory against Caledonia.
New Hope (19-5) will try to build on that momentum at 7 p.m. Tuesday when it plays host to Saltillo. The Trojans are 6-2 and in first place in the district, and the third meeting between the teams (each won at the other”s field) will decide who wins the Class 5A, Division 2, District 1 title and earns the right to play host to game one in the opening round of the North Half State playoffs.
New Hope”s seventh inning Saturday showed it might be prepared for Tuesday. Brent Younger and Lee singled to set the stage for cleanup hitter Jake Smith. The senior pitcher/center fielder, who homered earlier in the week in a victory against Oxford, opted instead for small ball and dropped a well-placed bunt down the third-base line that the catcher couldn”t field and that went for a hit.
Gabe Franks followed with a two-run single just inside first base that scored two to extend the Trojans” lead to 6-2. Smith scored on the back end of a stolen base and a throwing error, the Confederates” sixth of the game.
New Hope coach Lee Boyd praised his players for buying into the team concept and for being versatile to execute in a variety of situations.
“We continue to talk about it”s a team ballgame,” Boyd said. “It”s not about me or it”s not about I. Its about the New Hope Trojans.”
Boyd said Smith has unbelievable speed, and he isn”t afraid to give him the bunt sign at any time because it isn”t a straight sacrifice situation. Like he did against Caledonia, Smith can place it in the right spot and use his speed to get on.
Boyd hopes that level of execution carries over to Tuesday and the postseason. He feels confident with all of his pitchers for Tuesday and that the Trojans will be ready.
“They beat us last time at home, and I think the kids will want to defend home field, especially in the last division game of the year and playing for a division title,” Boyd said. “I think that is something special those seniors have wanted to work toward.”
New Hope beat West Point on Friday to clinch a playoff spot. He said he wasn”t pleased with his pitchers” lack of control and said the Trojans can”t always expect to step up in key spots and expect to work out of trouble.
Against Caledonia, Boyd opted to shuffle his pitchers to ensure he has several fresh arms for Saltillo. He said he isn”t sure who will start Tuesday.
“We just didn”t want to waste the arms,” Boyd said. “This game is big for us because they are a cross-county rival, but we have a division championship on the line Tuesday. I want to make sure I have everyone ready. That is the big one.”
Richard Keene had the only hit for Caledonia, which scored both its runs thanks to batters being hit by pitches. Columbus defeated Caledonia 10-0 in a mercy-rule game earlier in the day.
Caledonia coach Randy Finch, whose team has won only four games this season, hopes the Confederates can use the final week of practice to prepare for their season finales Saturday at West Point and at Hamilton.
Against New Hope, Finch praised the effort of senior left-hander Curry Freeman, who pitched all seven innings and allowed nine hits.
“Curry gives us 100 percent every game,” Finch said. “Words can not explain what Curry Freeman has done this year — on the mound, at the plate, leadership. He has done a heck of a job this year.”
Caledonia”s lack of execution contributed to its demise. Finch said the Confederates have hit the ball reasonably well and received “great” pitching, only to see the defense come up lacking.
“You”re not going to beat anybody with six errors,” Finch said.
Finch said the fact Caledonia High had its prom Friday night played a role in the performance against Columbus.
Still, Finch is upbeat about the program”s future. He said the Confederates” junior varsity team, which beat Columbus and New Hope, should give the program a boost.
“We are very excited about our J.V. bunch,” Finch said. “We have a real good group of young guys coming up, and we”re excited they”re coming.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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