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Newton American All Stars heading to state finals
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The Newton American Major All Stars earned a trip to the state tournament Saturday in Augusta after winning the district tournament earlier in Covington.

The American All Stars will attempt to win back-to-back state championships in the 11-12 year-old age group. Last year's title was a first in Newton County history for this particular age division.

"We are certainly excited about this opportunity," said Newton American All Stars coach Ricky Vaughn. "After a slow start, we have played outstanding baseball. It has been a total team effort with all the kids involved in one way or another."

With the victory last Saturday, Newton advances to the state finals against Albany. It is a best-of-three series beginning at 6 p.m. today in Augusta at Diamond Lakes Regional Park.

"We will face an outstanding Albany team, and we have our work cut out for us," Vaughn said. "They do everything well and should be an outstanding series. We need everyone to make the trip to support us. We are excited and ready to compete for the state championship."

The second game is at 10 a.m. Saturday. If necessary, the third game is at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The local squad opened play last week against Thomaston. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, the Newton American All Stars fell behind, 5-3, entering the sixth and final inning.

But clutch singles by Adam Corbett and Mitch Troutman started the rally, followed by a one-out double by Jeremy Laguins to cut the deficit, 5-4.

Newton took a 6-5 lead after Avery Fuller hit a fly ball to right field that led to a throwing error.

Pitcher Devin McDonald closed the door in the sixth, and the next thing they knew the American All Stars had their first win.

On Sunday, Newton exploded early, pounding Mountain Park en route to an 18-0 victory.

Alan Bowen, McDonald and Fuller contributed to the shutout. The offense was led by Kacey Coleman and James Russell, who each belted home runs.

On Monday, the two undefeated teams in the red bracket - Newton and Brookwood - squared off on the diamond. Behind the shutout pitching of McDonald, the American All Stars were again victorious, 6-0.

The offense was provided by a homer off the bat of Corbett. Dez Billingsen had two hits. Meanwhile, the defense was perfect, which featured a spectacular play by second baseman Dee Bell.

On Tuesday, Newton continued its quest for the state championship by topping Pike County, 10-2.

Again, the pitching was superb, as Ty Raynor, Bowen and Fuller split duties on the mound.

Offensively, McDonald had one home run, while Laguins, Coleman, Russell, Raynor and Robert Gahwiler each had two hits. Defensively, Billingsen provided an impressive running catch.

On Wednesday, the American All Stars needed just one more win to advance to the state finals.

After a slow start, Newton eventually prevailed, defeating Lee County, 10-0. Raynor earned the win after four innings of work, while Bowen pitched the final inning to complete the shutout.

Home runs were provided by Bowen, McDonald and Russell.

"After winning 10 in a row, we are excited about what we have done," Vaughn said.

Fans interested in attending today's opening game in Augusta are encouraged to support the local squad. The baseball complex at Diamond Lakes Regional Park is located at 108 Diamond Lakes Way off I-20 East (Exit 196A).

Compiled by Jason Murdock, News sports editor.