NEW CARLISLE - For the third time in the past four years, the New Carlisle Newts found themselves in a familiar position on the last Sunday of July.
The Newts had rattled off eight straight victories during Hometown Days weekend and were once again playing in The Wiffle®Ball Championship Game in front of a packed house at Migley Field.
This time, unlike 2015 and 2016, there was no coming up short.
New Carlisle set the tone early with an eight-run first inning and held off a late rally to defeat the Granger Panthers, 13-10, to win the Hometown Cup.
The title for the Newts, third in franchise history, ends a decade-long drought for themselves and for New Carlisle area teams. Local teams won the first four championships, but had been shut out since the Newts’ last victory in 2008.
New Carlisle’s path to the title game was no cake walk. After a 4-0 day on Saturday and a bye in the first round of the Hometown Cup Playoffs, the Newts fended off M.O.W.S. and The Naturals to advance to the Elite Eight.
With a trip to Migley on the line, the bats finally woke up for the Newts in a back and forth 16-14 win over the White Lightning.
Aidan Cotter was the workhorse on the mound for the Newts throughout the weekend, handling the bulk of the pitching responsibilities. Cotter’s effectiveness through the first seven games allowed southpaw Garrett Curless to stay fresh when he took the ball for the Hometown Cup Finals.
In the semifinal against the Maple City Purple, Curless worked a perfect first inning, allowing the Newts to jump out to another early eight-run advantage and coast to a 17-11 victory.
Throughout the final four Curless, assisted by the sure-handed defense of Joey Schuster and Ryan Galiher, was able to continually limit damage. All the while, all five Newt hitters were playing long ball.
For his efforts on the mound and at the plate, Curless was an easy pick for the Kaylor Trophy, awarded to the Marquee Player of the Hometown Cup Finals.
The Newts are now 31-3 in the last four Championships, tops for all teams during the time frame.
Despite the title game loss, the trip to Migley was a major breakthrough for Granger. With captain Griffin Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Panthers acquired Andy Sieradzki of the Clutch Players to make their first Hometown Cup Finals appearance. If healthy, Granger will be a major player on Wiffle®Ball’s Grandest Stage for years to come.
Granger’s crosstown rival, and semifinal opponent, the Twin Branch Billy Goats also made some noise this year. In their second tournament appearance, the Goats knocked off four-time champion Cult West in the Elite Eight.
A total of 75 teams entered the event, as 150 pool play games were played on 20 fields throughout the New Prairie Little League complex on Saturday. Twelve teams went 4-0 in pool play, and 48 teams returned for Sunday’s Hometown Cup Playoffs.
Minnesota’s Team Combat was one of several out of state teams who made the trip to New Carlisle for the weekend. In addition to teams from six states, players with local roots flew in from as far as Florida, Texas, and Washington.
Those in the crowd of 300 at Migley Field weren’t the only fans who watched the Hometown Cup Finals. Nearly 400 viewers from across the country logged into broadcastsport.net, with watch parties representing each finalist in Granger and at the Curless porch in New Carlisle.
Jared Jonkman claimed his second consecutive Golden Bat in Friday’s Home Run Derby with a 12-11 blast-off win over Nate Arndt. It was Arndt’s fourth runner-up finish.
A record 37 competitors entered the Derby, the official kick-off event to the weekend of wiffleball.