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Newmann sparks Royals win

EAGLE POINT ­ Mike Newmann loves pressure and Saturday night he responded.

The hard-throwing right-hander struck out 10 and had three hits to helpthe North Jackson Royals to a 7-3 victory over Montana's state champion,the Bitteroot Red Sox, at the American Legion A Northwest Regional Tournamentat the Yard.

The victory moves North Jackson (33-12) into tonight's 7:05 winner'sbracket game against Oregon state champion, Cleveland from Portland.

I felt like it was all on my shoulders, said Newmann, whoheld Bitteroot to just five hits. I like the pressure, but I can'tsay enough about my teammates. I started it and they finished it.

North Jackson drew first blood in the bottom half of the second inningon one big swing.

Newmann and Jeremy Sitzer led off the inning with back-to-back singlesoff Bitteroot starter Chad Ekin. After Don Jackson's sacrifice bunt movedrunners to second and third, Ekin appeared close to getting out of the jamafter striking out Evan Pogue.

But on a one-ball, two-strike pitch to Scott Roberts, Ekins hung a curveballand Roberts deposited the mistake over the left field wall for a three-runhomer, making it 3-0.

The Red Sox cut into the lead in the top of the third on an RBI groundoutby Ty Webber and moved within one run in the top of the fourth on a solohome run by catcher D.J. Jahnke off Newmann.

North Jackson pushed the lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth on aJackson RBI groundout. The Royals appeared to be heading for more runs inthe fifth, but Ekin got Dan Shopp to fly out to right fielder Derek Ihdeand Ihde gunned down a tagging Carlos Stevenson at third base to end thethreat.

North Jackson returned the favor in the top of the sixth when Newmanngot Bitteroot's Richie Borden to fly out to right fielder Pogue, and the15-year-old Pogue gunned down Webber at third base to end the inning.

The defensive play was sorely needed by the Royals, who had committed26 errors in their last three games.

We played great defense and Mike threw a great game, saidRoyals coach Tom Britton. They made some key mistakes along the wayand we were very fortunate.

Once again, the Red Sox refused to go away. Ihde blasted a one-out solohome run to right field, cutting the lead to 4-3.

But with Brody Burke on third base for Bitteroot, pinch-hitter DavidKearns missed a squeeze bunt attempt and Burke was easily tagged out byNorth Jackson catcher Mike Holte.

Newmann seized the momentum by striking out Kearns to end the inningand escape with a 4-3 lead.

Newmann continued his roll in the top of the eighth inning, strikingout the side with good fastballs.

I like pitching in the later innings, said Newmann. Ialways get stronger later and I throw harder. Adrenaline had a lot to dowith it, but I really wanted this bad.

The North Jackson hitters also seemed to feed off Newmann, as Bryon Boydand Shopp smacked back-to-back doubles off Ekin. Shopp crossed the plateone batter later when Newmann's ground ball was thrown away by Red Sox shortstopGuy Rouse.

After a walk to Sitzer, Jackson knocked home the third and final runof the inning on an RBI single.

We're very focused right now, said Britton, whose team waseliminated at the state tournament in two straight games. That waslacking at state. We were embarassed and we had something to prove.

Newmann echoed his coach's assessment.

State was our wake-up call, said Newmann. It was agood thing for us. If we play like we can, we can win this tournament.