NEW CARLISLE- The old vs. the new squared off in the Best of 5 National League Championship Series with a trip to the 2017 World Series on the line. This was certainly one of the most hyped Semifinal match ups in ORWBL history as both the Newts and Panthers had special seasons.
For New Carlisle, this is nothing new as the Newts have turned into a power house over the past half decade, winning 3 ORWBL Championships in that span. On the other side there is the young upstart Granger Panthers who made the transition to ORWBL play with ease, going 25-5 in their first season in the league.
GAME 1- Newts 11, Panthers 10, Migley Field (Newts lead series 1-0)
The 2017 National League Championship opening game was filled with drama and certainly set the stage for the rest of the series. The Granger Panthers came out red hot as they had their way with Newts ace Jay Ryans early on, belting out 6 Home Runs in the first 4 innings. Meanwhile Griffin Smith was dealing as he tossed 3 perfect innings to start the NLCS.
Granger had a 9-0 lead in the 4th inning when Matt Soos finally broke up the no hitter with a solo Home Run. The Newts powered their way to a 7 run 4th inning, cutting Granger's lead to 2. Jay Ryans started having his way with the young Panthers lineup as he only held them to 1 run over the final 3 innings of the game.
Game 1 headed into the bottom of the 6th with Granger holding a one run lead. After a couple of hard hit balls that led to some errors, Matt Soos came up to the plate with the winning run at 3rd and walked it off for the Newts with a grounder up the middle to seal the Game 1 victory.
While the win was huge for the Newts, it certainly was a demoralizing loss for the usually sure handed Panthers who were not able to take advantage of a 9-0 lead. However, no one should be shocked as the Newts have certainly shown that they know how to turn it up in big time moments.
GAME 2- Newts 7, Panthers 2, Migley Field (Newts lead series 2-0)
New Carlisle was able to use their momentum from their incredible Game 1 comeback as they were in control of Game 2 from the start to the finish. The young Panthers appeared as though they were still kicking themselves over Game 1 and before they knew it, the Newts had won Game 2.
With that win, New Carlisle moved within 1 game of returning to their 5th consecutive World Series, and 7th overall. The series would shift over to Panther Park for the conclusion of the NLCS.
GAME 3- Panthers 2, Newts 0, Panther Park (Newts lead series 2-1)
With the Panthers in need of a miracle, Granger decided to make some field adjustments, moving their home plate back about 20 feet. While this was New Carlisle's first trip to Panther Park, the changed field may have thrown them off their game in Game 3.
New Carlisle was not able to plate across a run while NL Rookie of the Year, and Gold Glove winner Seth Campbell belted a Home Run which was all the run support NL Cy Young winner Griffin Smith and the Panthers would need.
The only way to come back from a 2-0 deficit is to win the first one and Granger did just that. They had high hopes of forcing a Game 5 in which tensions would be through the roof.
GAME 4- Newts 4, Panthers 3- F/9- Panther Park
Granger kicked off Game 4 with a lot of energy and confidence as they were able to put up 3 runs in the first inning. Granger maintained a 3-1 lead for a couple of innings but New Carlisle tied things up in the 3rd. At that point, it would have been hard to guess that both teams would go scoreless all the way up until the 9th inning.
With the stakes incredibly high, it started to feel as though 1 run from either team was going to be enough to win the game. Leave it to the veterans in New Carlisle to come up big when it matters most as the Newts pushed across the go ahead run following a Triple from none other than Scott Soos.
That took Game 4 of the NLCS into the bottom of the 9th where the Newts would close the door on Granger's remarkable first season in the league. With that, New Carlisle clinched a spot in the ORWBL World Series for the 5th consecutive season.
While Granger certainly has a bright future in the National League, 2017 just wasn't the time yet for the Newts to be dethroned in the NL. After the series, Matt Soos was named the 2017 NLCS MVP.
There is not enough that can be said about the fight and determination this young Panthers team showed this season. Granger wore their hearts on their sleeves all season, playing for their friend Cam Snead who certainly would be proud of his team and brothers.
The future is bright in Granger and they will certainly be back. But for now, New Carlisle isn't ready to give up their spot as National League Champions. New Carlisle will take on the Maple City Magic in the World Series for the 2nd consecutive season.