Newberry, Dixie County win wild semifinals games

Defending 1A state champion Newberry has become known as a come-from-behind team as well as a team that never quiets. 

Tuesday afternoon in the District 7-1A baseball semifinal at Chiefland, the top-seeded Panthers were given all they could handle from No. 5 seed Williston. 

But survive and advance Newberry did as junior Landon Gruenwald singled in Braxton Brady with a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh as the Panthers survived Williston 6-5 to advance to the district championship game. 

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Next up for Newberry (13-7) is No. 3 Dixie County (Cross City), who beat host Chiefland 7-4 in the evening semifinal. The title game will be on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Chiefland High School. 

It’s been an up-and-down season for Newberry, including a seven-game winning streak and a three-game losing skid at the end of the season. And this game kind of typified the Panthers’ season.

Newberry spotted the Red Devils (6-14-1) three runs before finally getting its offense going in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Panthers scored all six of their runs in the last three innings. 

“It’s just another group that doesn’t quit,” Newberry coach Mike Spina said. “We are a young team that is going to make mistakes, but we found a way to come back and get a win.”

Williston broke the scoreless tie with a run in the top of the fourth, as Red Devil shortstop Ryan Braddock doubled to center, stole third base, and came home on a passed ball by Gruenwald. 

Williston extended the lead to 3-0 in the fifth against Newberry starting pitcher Mason Tomchak. Back-to-back walks to Nolan Benton and Braddock preceded an RBI single by Miles Beville, and Braddock scored the second run on the play after a Newberry error. 

But the Panthers’ offense woke up in the fifth. Freshman third baseman Jackson McDavid, who had three hits, two runs scored and an RBI, started the inning with a single. Pinch-hitter Lucas Kuestle reached on catchers interference, and after McDavid scored the first Newberry run on a wild pitch by starter Tarin Sandquist, the Panthers picked up another run on a Red Devil error and tied the game on a bases-loaded walk by Zachary Cetin. 

Newberry took the lead for the first time at 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning as McDavid tripled in Gruenwald and later scored on a Williston error. 

“He [McDavid] is a freshman coming in and he’s a fiery kid,” Spina said. “We are looking for a bright future for that kid and he works really hard.”

Williston didn’t go quietly in the seventh though, tying the game at 5-5 as Beville drove in Braddock with a single. Hunter Bullock scored the tying run on a Newberry error. Braddock reached base four times and scored three runs for Williston. 

This set up the Panthers’ walk-off heroics in the bottom of the seventh. 

“Kudos to them [Williston], they play up and are always a tough out,” Spina said. 

Next up for Newberry on Thursday in the championship game is the Dixie County Bears. 

Dixie County (11-8) scored five runs in the top of the seventh inning and held off a late Chiefland (10-11) rally to advance to play Newberry. 

The Bears broke on top in the first with a two-run double by starting pitcher Carson St. Laurent. The game remained 2-0 all way through the bottom of the sixth when Junior Brown singled in a run for Chiefland to cut the deficit in half. 

That set up the wild seventh inning. Dixie County sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs on five hits with two Chiefland walks and an error. The Bears seemed in control at this point up 7-1. 

But the Indians wouldn’t go quietly either, scoring three runs on four hits with one Dixie County error. Chiefland closed within 7-4 and had the tying run at the plate, but Wade Gore grounded out to Bears shortstop Kode McCaskill to end the game. 

Chiefland’s base-running errors were costly, as they had two runners thrown out at home, another picked off at third base, and another runner doubled off second base on a line drive to right field. 

BASEBALL – District tournaments (local teams in Mainstreet coverage area in bold)

6A-District 2

Tuesday, May 3

No. 1 Chiles (Tallahassee) 6, No. 4 Fleming Island (Orange Park) 0

No. 2 Buchholz (Gainesville) 6, No. 3 Leon (Tallahassee) 3

Thursday, May 5

Championship Game – No. 1 Chiles (Tallahassee) vs. No. 2 Buchholz (Gainesville), 7 p.m.

5A-District 3

Tuesday, May 3

No. 1 Columbia (Lake City) 9, No. 5 Ridgeview (Orange Park) 8

No. 2 St. Augustine 7, No. 3 Middleburg 3

Thursday, May 5

Championship Game – No. 1 Columbia (Lake City) vs. No. 2 St. Augustine, TBD

4A-District 2

Tuesday, May 3

No. 2 Wakulla (Crawfordville) 5, No. 3 Baker County (Glen St. Mary) 4

No. 1 Suwannee (Live Oak) 20, No. 4 Godby (Tallahassee) 2

Thursday, May 5

Championship Game – No. 1 Suwannee (Live Oak) vs. No. 2 Wakulla (Crawfordville), TBD

4A-District 4

Tuesday, May 3

No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua) 8, No. 4 Palatka 1

No. 2 Dunnellon 15, No. 3 North Marion (Citra) 9

Thursday, May 5

Championship Game – No. 1 Santa Fe (Alachua) vs. No. 2 Dunnellon, TBD

3A-District 2

Tuesday, May 3

No. 1 Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) 12, No. 5 West Nassau (Callahan) 3

No. 2 Baldwin 8, No. 3 Keystone Heights 7

Thursday, May 5

Championship Game – No. 1 Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville) vs. No. 2 Baldwin, TBD

2A-District 4

Tuesday, May 3

No. 1 Oak Hall (Gainesville) 15, No. 4 Peniel Baptist Academy (Palatka) 0

No. 2. St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) 4, No. 3 Saint Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) 1

Thursday, May 5

Championship Game – No. 1 Oak Hall (Gainesville) vs. No. 2 St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine), 4 p.m.

1A-District 6

Tuesday, May 3

No. 4 Hilliard 9, No. 1 Lafayette (Mayo) 2

Wednesday, May 4

No. 2 Union County (Lake Butler) 6, No. 3 Fort White 3

Thursday, May 5

Championship Game – No. 2 Union County (Lake Butler) vs. No. 4 Hilliard, 7 p.m.

1A-District 7

Tuesday, May 3

No. 1 Newberry 6, No. 5 Williston 5

No. 3 Dixie County (Cross City) 7, No. 2 Chiefland 4

Thursday, May 5

Championship Game – No. 1 Newberry vs. No. 3 Dixie County (Cross City), 7 p.m.

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