STERLING – The Dixon Dukes showed some power by scoring three runs in the top of the sixth inning on Tuesday against Newman.
The Comets answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning without collecting a hit.
The Comets' creative scoring proved to be enough in a 7-5 non-conference home victory.
"We have the tools to be a pretty good team, we just haven't been using them so far," Newman coach Tom Wilson said. "Today, we took a nice step forward. We beat a good Dixon team that is well-coached."
"It's nice to have that support," Newman pitcher Alex Buhler said. "I didn't feel real great after giving up those three runs. But, the team did a great job of picking me up."
The Comets (2-4) jumped out to a 4-0 lead by scoring four runs in the second inning. Matt Wagenecht walked with the bases loaded to score a run, and A.J. Sharp and Buhler had RBI singles. Elias Edmondson drove in the other run with a fielder's choice groundout.
"We were 6-for-41 in the last two games, so it was nice to come out and get some hits today," Wilson said. "A.J. picked up his first hit of the year, and Alex looked like his bat was heating up."
Dixon (4-4) chipped away with unearned runs in both the third and fourth innings. In both innings, the Dukes were a hit away from better results.
"We just left too many guys on base today," Dixon coach Sam Gallucci said. "We had too many strikeouts. The bats just weren't there."
The bats came briefly alive against Buhler in the sixth inning. Ryan Dixon and Cody Mighell led off with back-to-back singles to left field.
Nate Grocke, the Dukes' catcher, stepped to the plate and sent a 1-2 pitch over the left-field fence.
"Nate has been in a bit of slump," Gallucci said. "Hopefully, that shows that he is about ready to come out of that."
The homer gave Dixon a brief 5-4 lead.
Reliever Brandon Jagitsch (0-1) recorded an out to start the bottom of the inning, but then walked Sharp and hit Dillan Heffelfinger in the head. It was the second time that Heffelfinger was pegged in the head in the game.
"Brandon pitched reasonably well until he wore out there at the end," Gallucci said. "Mitchell Wolfe was sick over the weekend, and just wasn't himself today to start the game. We were a little short on pitching from Saturday."
Edmondson came up and bunted down the third-base line. He was initially ruled out at first by the infield umpire, but the call was overturned by the plate umpire, who said that first baseman Cal Jarrett pulled his foot off the bag while reaching to catch the throw.
Buhler then grounded into a fielder's choice to score Sharp. Michael Ely walked in another run, and A.J. Murdock's wild pitch allowed Buhler to score to give Newman the 7-5 lead.
Buhler (1-0) got one out in the seventh before walking Connor Sperling and allowing a single by Murdock. Trevor Bolin earned the save by getting Jarrett to ground into a fielder's choice and striking out Jagitsch.
Buhler finished with nine strikeouts, a walk and one hit batter. He allowed six hits, with three of those coming in the sixth.
"I just tried to keep my composure," Buhler said. "Every inning is a new start. You can't dwell on what happened on the last play. You just have to worry about the next pitch. I think I was able to do that today."
Star of the game: Alex Buhler, Newman 6 1/3 IP, 5 R, 2 ER, 9 SO, 1 BB, 1 HBP) and had two hits, RBI.
Key performers: Nate Grocke, Dixon, 3-run home run; A.J. Sharp, Newman, RBI single, run scored.
Up next: Rockford East at Dixon, 4:30 p.m.; Newman at Amboy, 4:30 p.m.