Trenton stuns Newberry, final four bound

Photo by Mike Ridaught

The Newberry baseball team had outscored Trenton, 24-0, in two games this season heading into its FHSAA Class 1A-Region 4 Final against the Tigers.

But on Saturday night in Newberry, the visiting No. 3 seed Tigers stunned the top seed Panthers, 4-3, to advance to their first final four in baseball since 2018.

“I give the hats off to them, they battled all night, they did play well” said Newberry coach Mike Spina, whose team was denied its third trip to the state semifinals in the past four years. “I can tell you this, the better team didn’t win tonight. They capitalized on mistakes tonight. We had three errors, we had some baserunning mistakes, and that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

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That’s baseball.

“Man, our guys played great,” said first-year coach Chris Marlo. “Every day at practice they’ve given me and the coaching staff 110%. You prepare all year for this, and it went our way. That’s a great Newberry team. They’ve got a great coach over there. If you don’t respect them, they’ll beat you all day long. You’ve got to prepare for those guys and hey, we just caught some lucky breaks.”

Newberry appeared to be in control early.

Senior pitcher Braxton Brady retired the side in order in the top of the first inning.

In the bottom of the first, Brady walked with one out and scored on a 2-run home run down the left field line by freshman Tavis Honeycutt for a quick 2-0 lead.

“I just knew I had to keep doing my thing,” said Trenton freshman pitcher Mason VunCannon (5 IP, 5H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2K). “He’s a great hitter. He’s going to hit the ball, so I’ve just got keep throwing my game. It all came out good in the end.”

Those would be the only earned runs he would allow.

“Amazing job for a 9th-grader to come in and do that,” Marlo said. “We had all the confidence in the world for him. His parents have done a great job raising him, mental toughness, and they’ve prepared him for this.”

Trenton, which starts five freshmen, took its first lead in the top of the third inning.

Freshman Brant Bivens led off with a single to left field and then junior Jordan Marlo reached on an error at second base.

That sent sophomore Ty Moses to the plate, who lined a pitch over the head of left fielder Tristan Woodrome for a 2-RBI triple to tie the game at 2-2.

“Ty’s been competing, battling all year,” Coach Marlo said. “He’s one of our leaders out here. Every day he shows up, he’s there to get better and he competes. He’s just a great kid, a great ball player. I’m super proud of him. I love him like my own.”

Later in the inning, VunCannon doubled to right center field to drive in Moses for a 3-2 lead.

“He was the top hitter in the district last year and this year he had a hand injury, so he was out for six weeks, so it took him a little while to get started,” Coach Marlo said. “This is why I put him in the lineup every day because I know what he’s capable of.”

Trenton (13-11) added some insurance in the fifth inning.

Marlo led off the inning with a single to right field off of the glove of Newberry first baseman Josh Morrison.

After the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs, Marlo scored on an infield hit by junior Isaac Johnson.

However, Newberry senior Ben Beck, who relieved Brady in the fourth, was able to retire the next three batters to get out of the jam.

After the Panthers scored a run in the fifth, Bivens came in relief in the sixth inning and shut the door.

Bivens hit sophomore Desmond Taylor with one out, but he was able to get a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

In the final inning, he retired the side in order including two strikeouts.

“A lot of off-speed sliders,” Bivens said about what was working for him. “They weren’t hitting it, so I just kept throwing it. Thank God it worked out.”

Newberry, which defeated Williston, 5-0, in Tuesday’s regional semifinals, won the Class 1A-District 7 title and advanced to its second straight region final.

“It was a great season,” Spina said. “I’m proud of my guys, I’m proud of my team, I’m proud of my seniors. They competed all year long. It does sting to end like this because I feel like we had a good chance to make a run for the whole thing. We just didn’t make it happen tonight.”

Meanwhile, Trenton, which is ranked 16th in Class 1A in the final FHSAA rankings, will play top-ranked Bozeman (Panama City) at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers in the Class 1A state semifinals.

It’s the first trip to the final four for the Tigers since back-to-back trips in 2017 (1A state champions) and 2018.

“It feels amazing, especially starting off at the beginning of the year, a lot of struggles” VunCannon said. “We’ve been working every day in practice, working so hard. It was great to see it finally pay off.”

Trenton, which started the season at 4-8, is now just two wins away from a state title.

“We’re playing as a team,” Coach Marlo said. “You couldn’t ask for a better story, kind of a Cinderella story.”

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G Bivens

Bozeman has their hands full.

G Bivens

Newberry also hadn’t seen the arms till now. Worked well