Cougars handle the first step
MISHAWAKA — New Prairie was mentally on point for Thursday’s Class 3A Mishawaka Marian Sectional opener with John Glenn, a team it handled just a few weeks ago.
“It’s sectionals,” Cougars ace Hunter Robinson said, discounting the 8-0 result in the prior meeting. “It’s everyone’s season.”
Just in case NP wasn’t dialed in, the Falcons caught their attention with a game-tying, two-run Jack Vukovits double in the fourth inning.
Not to worry though, as the Cougars hung a five in their half, highlighted by a two-run double by Roman Kuntz, and coasted to an 8-2 victory.
“We talked in pre-game, it’s tournament baseball, there’s going to be adversity, it’s not all going to go our way,” New Prairie coach Mark Schellinger said. “It’s more how we respond to it. We talk about that all the time and the kids responded great. We went out to the mound just to reinforce that idea, hey, we’re fine, take a deep breath, let’s come back. Hunter led us like he’s done all year and we answered back with five.”
Single runs in the first and second made it 2-0, Jacob Dockery scoring on an error and Wyatt Kmiecik doubling home Frank Turley. Robinson sailed through three, setting down the first nine Falcons in order with six whiffs before an error and a hit set up Vukovits in the fourth.
“Mistakes are going to happen. I wasn’t really focused on that,” Robinson said “I was just focused on throwing strikes and getting people out. I don’t necessarily think there was any doubt that we still had it, that it was still our game. We responded really well. It’s a great indicator. You have to get that level of seriousness in you. We’re going to come back and fight. I think that’s going to pay off in the long run.”
Robinson fanned the next two hitters to keep the game even and wound up with nine, both of his walks coming in the fifth, his last inning, as Noah Brettin finished up with a clean sixth and seventh.
“I felt really good coming out here,” Robinson said. “It’s been a while since I’ve pitched on this mound, my sophomore year. Getting a feel for it in the first game is really good. Next time, I’ll be knowing what I need to do. My fastball, if they can’t hit it, I might as well keep throwing it. Eventually, they caught on, and by that point, I mixed up my changeup, slider, curve ball. My curve ball was a little off. I feel I need to stride out a little more. I’m releasing it a little early. You’re never going to be perfect, you’re always going to have bumps. That’s good. You take what you learn from that and put it into the next one.”
Robinson and Jarrod Michael added RBI singles for the Cougars’ final runs.
“Our goals are inning by inning,” Schellinger said. “One of our goals on offense is to answer back, which we did, and our goal on defense is a shutdown inning after we score. Every time we scored, we had a shutdown inning. We knew they were going to play well. (Glenn coach John Nadolny) does a great job over there. A lot of times in tournament baseball, there are big momentum swings. Who can control the momentum is going to be in good shape.”
Class 3A Mishawaka Marian Sectional
New Prairie 8, John Glenn 2
The Cougars’ Roman Kuntz doubled in two runs.