For the first time in school history, Newberry baseball is a state champion.
On Thursday night, the Panthers overcame 10 walks, including five in the first inning, to knock off No. 1 Chipley, 7-5, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers to win the FHSAA Class 1A state title.
“It feels amazing,” said Newberry coach Mike Spina. “These boys have made me proud all year long. They’ve played hard all year long. I told them before we came into this stadium tonight to leave it all out on the field, and they left it all out on the field.”
The Panthers trailed 2-0 before they even got a chance to hit.
Justen Crews, a Tallahassee Community College commit, got the start and pitched just 2/3 of an inning after allowing two runs on five walks as Chipley took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
However, senior Logan Carlisle, who just missed hitting two home runs in the game, doubled to left field to score Luke Ridley, who had walked. That cut the lead in half, 2-1, in the bottom of the first.
Chipley (26-2), which had its 23-game winning streak snapped, added three more runs in the fourth inning on an RBI single by pitcher Neal Adams, a bases loaded walk by Waylon Pitts, and an RBI groundout by Bryson Howard.
But the Panthers (25-1), who trailed 5-1 going into the bottom of the fourth inning, kept battling.
“We were down 5-1, and most teams pack their bags and they’re done,” Spina said. “We didn’t give up tonight and that’s the group we have. That’s the group we’ve had all year long. I’m so proud of them.”
Carlisle added a double off the wall in left center in the fourth and later scored on an error as Newberry came back from a 5-1 deficit in the fourth to make it 5-3 following Jayden Holcomb's RBI single.
“Man, I thought it was gone, I’m not going to lie to you,” Carlisle said with a smile. “I thought both of them were gone, honestly, but I knew with the wind it probably wasn’t out, but it was good pieces.”
He was probably licking his chops when he came to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth with his team down a pair of runs.
Carlisle walked, which scored Crews, who had reached on an error at third to start the inning.
“We’ve always said it all year, we think we are the best team to step on the field no matter what,” Carlisle said. “We know we can swing it, and 1-through-9 just got the job done.
Senior Makai Johnson walked and scored as part of a four-run fifth inning to give the Panthers a lead they would never relinquish. The Panthers sent 10 batters to the plate and took advantage of five walks and two errors in the inning.
“It feels great,” said Johnson, who helped the Panthers rally from a 5-3 deficit to take a 7-5 lead. “It feels amazing. It’s a dream come true.”
Junior Mason Tomchak (3-0) got the win in relief by tossing 3.2 innings and allowing no runs on three hits with three strikeouts.
It was the fifth playoff win for Spina, who passed former coach Terry Stroemer for the most playoff wins in school history.
Spina’s team advanced to its first state semifinal in over 40 years on Wednesday and defeated Hamilton County (Jasper), 3-2, in the state semifinals to advance to Thursday night’s championship game.
In 1979, Newberry lost, 6-3, to Clearwater Central Catholic in the Class 2A state championship game under Stroemer.
That's the closest they had come at winning a state title, until now.
The 2021 Panthers, who etched their place in the history books, finished the season with a 19-game winning streak.