A grand win for Mustangs

GV claims walkoff win in regional semifinal

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Grand Valley’s Michael McGovern (10), Gary Gearhart (20) and several teammates celebrate their 4-3 victory over Kirtland in a Division III Massillon Regional semifinal Thursday. McGovern drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

MASSILLON — As confident and at ease as Michael McGovern was as he stood at home plate with the game on the line in the bottom of the seventh inning, his assurance disappeared as he ran to first base.

“I honestly thought I was going to trip and fall going up the first base line when I heard people yelling,” said McGovern, who hit a grounder to third base with a runner on third, two outs and the Mustangs’ regional semifinal tied at 3. “I didn’t know what had happened.”

The fleet-footed McGovern stumbled, but he didn’t fall, and it’s a good thing.

The senior’s grounder to the Kirtland third baseman took a tough hop and bounced off his hip, and McGovern reached first without a throw. More importantly, Logan Newell scored the winning run from third base, and Grand Valley walked off to reach the Division III Massillon Regional final with a 4-3 victory Thursday at Ducky Schroeder Field.

“It was crazy,” said McGovern of the feeling when he reached first and knew GV won. “I didn’t see what happened with him, I just heard everyone behind me, and I knew I was in the clear.”

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Grand Valley starting pitcher Logan Newell delivers a pitch to a Kirtland batter during their Division III regional semifinal Thursday at Massillon. Newell scored the winning run and fired six strong innings in the Mustangs’ 4-3 victory.

The Mustangs (17-7) play South Range (15-15) at 5 p.m. today back in Massillon. The Raiders, who beat Waynedale, 4-1, in the other semifinal, defeated Grand Valley, 5-0, earlier in the season.

That’s a distant memory for the Mustangs, who won their fourth one-run game of the postseason. Considering they’ve only played five games in the playoffs, it’s safe to say it’s been a wild ride for GV.

“It’s been stressful,” Mustangs coach Matthew Brumit said. “I’ve got some more gray in my beard, and I’m losing more hair than I have, but it’s a great experience for the kids. No matter what happened tonight, (or) what happens or tomorrow (against South Range), the kids are always going to remember this, and it’s great for them.”

Newell did more than just score the winning run. He also pitched solid six innings.

The left-hander allowed three runs — one earned — while striking out eight, walking four and allowing five hits. He continuously worked out of jams and contained a Hornets team (14-13) that stole 146 bases this year.

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Grand Valley’s Logan Newell rounds second base Thursday against Kirtland.

Newell stranded six runners, picked off another, and catcher Gary Gearhart threw another would-be base stealer out.

“The definition of heartbreaking,” said Kirtland coach Luke Smrdel, who questioned the pick-off move of Newell, thinking it might’ve been a balk. “It takes a bad hop on him (to end the game). Congratulations to them. That’s a great team we lost to, and they played a great game. It went both ways — back and forth all day. It was a great game.”

The Hornets took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a base hit to right field by Tyler McCrory. Grand Valley answered immediately, taking advantage of two walks and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Gordon Seger.

The Mustangs took a 2-1 lead on an run-scoring triple by Nick Reichek in the fourth inning. The ball bounced off the glove of Kirtland’s right fielder, who was lunging to make the catch.

“A ton,” said Newell of how the immediate responses of the Mustangs helped him on the mound. “Not just batting, too. I know these guys make plays behind me as well.”

Much like GV, the Hornets answered, scoring two in the fifth on an error and a wild pitch to lead, 3-2. McGovern tied it with an RBI single in the fifth, driving in Gearhart. Seger, who will start today, came on in relief and pitched a perfect top half of the seventh. That set up the dramatic finish.

Newell reached on a walk with one out. Brumit took a risk by sending Newell, who stole his second base of the game. Newell made a smart play by moving to third on a slow-rolling ground out to the shortstop. McGovern, a first-year player who twice had runners on base before his crucial at-bat in the seventh, then hit a bouncer to third. The ball kicked up, and the third baseman misplayed it and didn’t have a play at first base.

The Mustangs rushed the field and celebrated near second base with McGovern, a center fielder who hadn’t played baseball in six years before coming out this season.

“It was a lot easier at the end of the game,” said McGovern of facing McCrory, Kirtland’s starter, for the fourth time. “I definitely was a little nervous the first two at-bats, and putting one in play on the third at-bat (a base hit) helped me out a lot. I felt like anywhere I put it on the field, I was going to get safe to first.”

It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but he was right.