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  • Val T.

Senior clears ‘Rush’ hour traffic with 2-run double, leads Caston to sectional title

Spin it to win it: Joey twirls 3-hitter for win vs. North Miami


Sports Editor, RTC

FULTON — Caston baseball coaches use the term “pre-forgiven.”

The coaches know that the players are trying. So players who make mistakes are “pre-forgiven.” Everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of the game. So you’re already forgiven, and you should not be playing with fear.

Joey Spin Adam Rush

Already “pre-forgiven” and in the biggest game of their high school careers, the fearless Comets won their first sectional title in 10 years Monday thanks to a senior left fielder who cleaned up some Rush hour traffic in the second inning, and a pitcher that was Spin it to win it.

Adam Rush doubled home two runs in the second inning, and Joey Spin pitched a three-hitter to lead the Comets to a 3-1 win over North Miami in the Class 1A, Sectional 52 final at Caston Monday.

No. 9 Caston improved to 19-6 and will face No. 4 South Central (Union Mills) in a regional semifinal in South Bend at 11 a.m. Saturday. No. 10 Fremont will play Morgan Township in the second semifinal at approximately 1 p.m., and the winners return at 8 p.m. for the regional final.

Kolton Floor homered in the bottom of the sixth for North Miami, who finished 12-11.

“I’m just really proud of this group,” Caston coach Blake Mollenkopf said. “I would say after week two – I’m assuming you guys even thought this too – man, what kind of crew is going to be out at Caston this year? … But from the time that Winamac swept us (April 28-29) until now, this has been a very outstanding ballclub. They shored things up defensively, and you’re talking about two guys on the mound between Pete (DuVall) and Joey, who are now 17-1. So those two have just, they’re not overpowering, they just pitch. They pitch backwards.

“They just keep doing things that we ask them to do.”

North Miami had only five baserunners against Spin. They never had more than one runner on base in any inning.

After Floor homered, Spin got Brayden Binnion to chase a curve in the dirt for strike three to end the inning.

Parker Johnson singled to center to start the seventh for North Miami, but Spin got pinch-hitter Lucas Keim to ground into a forceout, got Joey Horn to ground to Preston Holderfield at second base and then got Gage Fulk on a routine fly ball, and when the ball came down in Caleb Stinson’s glove in center field, the jubilant Comets had their second sectional title and their first since 2012.

Spin was also a starting guard on Caston’s sectional championship basketball teams in 2020 and 2021 and its conference championship team in 2022.

“It feels amazing,” Spin said before explaining the concept of being “pre-forgiven.” “It reminds of me of basketball. You get the same feeling. And it’s just good for our hometown and our fans.”

Said senior catcher Sam Smith, also a basketball standout: “It feels good. After the basketball sectional, it’s nice to get another one.”

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Rush said. “It was a great feeling getting that third out in the seventh inning and just screaming as you come running in. It was just absolutely amazing and the best feeling in the world.”

Floor, pitching on three days rest after throwing a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts against Pioneer in the quarterfinals Thursday, allowed just two hits with 12 strikeouts in six innings against Caston. But he also walked six and hit a batter, and two of the walks and the hit batter came around to score.

Ryan McGuire, the winning pitcher in North Miami’s 10-6 semifinal triumph over Southwood Saturday after he pitched five innings of scoreless relief, threw a 1-2-3 seventh in relief of Floor, who threw 113 pitches.

Floor pitched a 1-2-3 first, but Caston got to him in the second.

Smith walked, and Jackson Rentscher was hit by a 3-0 pitch to put runners on first and second. One out later, Rush pulled the fireballing Floor on a line, and the ball rolled all the way to the left field wall. Smith and Rentschler scored to give Caston a 2-0 lead.

“I didn’t know what to expect because everyone has said that he throws hard, but I just got back in the box, and he started pumping them in, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be,” Rush said. “I just put the bat to the ball and ran, and it was a great way to start the game.”

Mollenkopf noticed that North Miami’s corner outfielders were pinching in the gaps. He was hoping that Rush could pull a ball down the line, and Mollenkopf thought that was what allowed Rentschler to score from first.

“Adam’s got a swing where he can hit a fastball really well, and it worked out for us there,” Mollenkopf said. “He gives a little bit of pop in that seven spot.”

Caston scored their third run in the third inning. It was an unearned run without the benefit of a hit.

DuVall walked with one out and advanced to second when Spin reached on an error. One out later, Rentschler walked to load the bases, and DuVall later scored on a Floor wild pitch that went back to the chain link fence.

Equipped with a 3-0 lead, Spin made the lead stick. In a span that covered the first inning through the sixth, Spin retired 16 of the 18 batters he faced, and North Miami’s two baserunners during this time reached on errors.

Spin’s repertoire includes a two-seam fastball that can get in on the hands of opposing right-handed batters, a curve and a change-up. Spin, who grew up watching current Chicago White Sox pitcher Johnny Cueto when he hurled for the Cincinnati Reds, even varies his pitching rhythm, occasionally quick-pitching with nobody on base.

North Miami has a reputation as a good fastball hitting team, and Spin was told under no circumstances to throw either Floor or Binnion a fastball.

Floor’s home run came on a curve.

“It’s kind of a two-seam fastball,” Spin said. “I start it outside, and that’s tough to hit when it’s coming at you and then mixing it in with my curve ball going away, that’s a tough pitch combo to have.”

Smith and Spin grew up as a battery, and Mollenkopf said Smith and Spin would ask to come in early for extra practice. In this particular game, Smith wanted Spin to throw inside as North Miami hitters were crowding the plate.

“I can put my glove anywhere, in the zone or out of the zone and he’s going to hit it,” Smith said. “And he mixes up his speeds when he’s up in his wind-up.”

As for the quick-pitching, Smith said of Spin, “That’s all him.”

Spin also got defensive help from Holderfield, a sophomore second baseman who adjusted to the wind and sun to catch McGuire’s pop-up with his back to the infield, to end the fifth inning.

Holderfield’s contributions might exemplify what it means to be “pre-forgiven.”

“I thought that was an outstanding play, and then I thought the one where Joey just misses the number and he comes behind him and throws him out at first, those were both key plays.

“And I’ll be honest with you. I’m so proud of Preston because after Saturday’s game (a 3-2 win over North White), he was in the belly of the whale, on himself hard. But today, he showed up. He played a great ballgame, and we don’t win this sectional unless he makes those two plays. Great mental toughness. I’m just proud of that kid.”

Caston 3, North Miami 1

Caston 021 000 0 – 3 2 3

North Miami 000 001 0 – 1 3 2

WP – Joey Spin (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K)

LP – Kolton Floor (6 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 1 HBP, 12 K)

2B – Adam Rush (CAS)

HR – Kolton Floor (NM)

The Caston baseball team defeated North Miami 3-1 Monday to win the Class 1A, Sectional 52 title. The sectional title is the second in school history and the first since 2012. Ranked No. 9, the Comets will play No. 4 South Central (Union Mills) in a regional semifinal in South Bend at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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