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Posted: February 24, 2012 12:00 a.m.

Ram recovery

Newton looking to bounce back after missing playoffs

Newton needed to win just once in its last four games, and the Rams would be in the 2011 baseball playoffs.

The Rams then proceeded to fall 8-0 to East Coweta, dropped a six-inning 13-5 ball game to Westlake and fell in a heartbreaker 12-11 to Monticello. With possibly one game left in its season, the Newton baseball team then fell to Luella 4-2, finishing its season on April 28.

Since then the Rams have changed.

Vincent Byams comes over from Miller Grove to be Newton's new coach.

The Rams pitching staff all returned, but it is a more polished and determined unit. The lineup is littered with sophomores, who added discipline and strength to 2011's experience.

Newton fell in its opener, 9-3 to Eastside, but picked up a lop-sided 6-1 victory over Archer on Tuesday.

Byams was eager to take over the challenge of getting Newton back into the playoffs.

"I want to try to revitalize a program that's been down for a couple of years," Byams said. "It used to be rich in baseball when I was coming up in high school."

The Clarkston High graduate is looking to bring an aggressive style to the Rams. Byams said, under him, Newton will hit and run, bunt behind the runner, and execute correctly,. He started off by putting the Newton players to work as early as possible.

After fall ball, Newton conducted team workouts starting at 6 a.m. Following workouts, the players went straight to classes and then hit the field after school for 2-on-1 practices.

"They're a good group of core guys, who were dedicated to working out," Byams said.

It starts on the mound for the Rams, where they have two front-end starters in Trip Loftin and Zack Sullivan.

"Trip Loftin is a left-handed starter who tops out about mid-80s," Byams said. "He has a really good changeup and curve."

Byams said Sherman brings a different style in his pitching.

"Sherman is more of a power pitcher," Byams said. "He has a really strong curve, and has a hard-throwing fastball in the mid-to-upper 80s.

Ryan McRanie will close things out for Newton.

Throughout the lineup there is plenty of youth starting with freshman Yorel James, starting in center field.

"He has a solid glove, a decent arm and the kid works very hard," Byams said. "With strength and time he's definitely going to be a player to watch in the near future."

Another youngster to watch out for is Allen Bowen at shortstop.

"He's probably one of our better players in the program," Byams said. "He batted leadoff last year and I plan on having him bat leadoff also this year."

Joining James, Bowen and other sophomores such as Dez Bilingslea are Newton stalwarts McCranie, Loftin and Sullivan.

That leadership combined with youth and pitching has Byams looking for a region title, and a chance to overcome last year's disappointing finish.

"With time you kind of learn in the beginning stages, how to lose," Byams said. "I think they learned how to lose and to become a winner."

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