The victory is the Panthers' 10th in their last 12 games and earns them a spot in tonight's Class 1A District final to be held at the Storm Lake public high school.
"We did a nice job of building a lead again," said St. Mary's head coach Ryan Berg. "It is always a lot easier to play with a lead than to have to come from behind. I definitely have to give credit to Newell-Fonda for battling all game long. They worked their way out of several jams and kept us from pulling away, and then they mounted a rally in the seventh. Our pitching and defense were strong tonight and our offense did just enough. We know we will have a tough test with South O'Brien on Saturday, but hopefully we will be up for the challenge."
Joe Sandhoff got St. Mary's on the board in the first as he connected with a two-run shot over the fence in left.
Newell-Fonda would get one back in the top of the second. Rigo Johnson singled his way aboard with one out and promptly stole second. The throw got away from Luke Lenhart, and another throwing error on the play, allowed Johnson to come around and score and pull the Mustangs within one.
Dillon Anderson sat the Panthers down in order in the bottom of the inning, but Ivey did so as well in the top of the third to bring St. Mary's back to the plate.
Joe Kottke led off with a single, and Lenhart laid down a beauty of a bunt to reach as well. Dillan Smith then laid down a sac-bunt to score Kottke, and Tyler Munden followed with an RBI single for a 4-1 lead.
Ivey sat the Mustangs down in order again in the fourth , but St. Mary's was unable to add on to their lead, stranding runners at second and third.
Ivey retired his ninth, tenth and eleventh straight batters in the top of the fifth, and the SM bats went back to work again. Munden reached first on an error, and Sandhoff was plunked to put two aboard with no outs. Ivey moved them over with a sacrifice, and Kennedy Drey then drove in one with a single. A passed ball then brought Sandhoff around to score.
After a scoreless sixth, Newell-Fonda made their last attempt at a rally in the top of the seventh. After Brady Dicks ground out, pinch-hitter Joey Mullen walked his way aboard. Ben Hecht followed with a double to put two aboard. A passed ball and two throwing error brought Mullen and Hecht across and Brendan Kelly safely to first. After Ivey conceded a walk to Dicks, Jonathan Johnson stepped to the plate as what could have been the tying run. Johnson worked a full count against Ivey, but a called third strike ended the rally.
Ivey navigated the complete game, allowing one earned run on three hits. He walked three and struck out nine.
Sandhoff finished 1-for-1 with two runs scored and two driven in. Munden was 1-for-2 with one run driven in, two stolen bases and two runs scored, Lenhart was 2-for-4 and scored one, and Drey was 1-for-3 and drove in one. The Panthers stole four bases and walked four times.
Anderson took the loss on the mound for Newell-Fonda, giving up four runs on three hits. He walked four and struck out two. Brady Dicks pitched strongly in relief, giving up two runs on two hits. He walked none and struck out three. Jake Hahn, Rigo Johnson and Hecht had a hit apiece for the Mustangs. Newell-Fonda ends the year with a record of 10-18.
The Panthers move to 18-8 and will look to slow down a South O'Brien (18-9) team that has won both of their district games via the ten-run rule; 12-2 over Clay Central-Everly and 15-5 over Harris Lake-Park. The Wolverines are led by standout sophomore Michael Callahan, who has hit .482 on the season with 12 doubles, 10 homeruns and 43 runs driven in. Cole Ebel follows with a .429 average and 16 driven in. On the mound, South O'Brien has thrown four arms regularly, with Brett Puhrmann receiving the majority of the innings. He sits at 2-3 with a 3.03ERA. He's fanned 34 in 37 innings. Zane Roberts sits at 4-1 with a 3.06ERA, and Sam Weber is 3-3 with a 3.29ERA.
Joe Sandhoff toes the rubber for St. Mary's as he hits at 6-2 on the year with a 1.63ERA. Lenhart is the Panthers' leading bat this season with a .369 average, 15 runs driven in and 18 stolen bases. Ivey follows at .351 with 18 driven in and Sandhoff .333 with three homers and 20 driven in.
The Panthers hold the edge defensively, with a .921 fielding percentage to .907 for the Wolverines.