MCDONOUGH - The Newton Knights, a newly organized 11 and under travel baseball team, were crowned champions Sunday during the first annual USSSA "Let's Get It Started"11 U AA boy's baseball tournament at Heritage Park.
The event - originally a double elimination tournament that began Saturday - had to cancel play because of poor field conditions due to the rain. Instead there was pool play seeding and single elimination play the following day.
The Knights are coached by Leroy James, Terry Ballard and Mark Clark. The players include Hunter Ballard, Jalen Martin, Benjamin Moses, J.L. Banks, John Wells, A.J. Howard, Garrett Witcher, Hunter Clark, Ross Kirkpatrick, Evan House, Yorel James and Casey Palmer. Team Mom is Gay Clark.
Newton's first victory was against the McDonough OTC Braves, 9-8. They won after a strong pitching performance by Kirkpatrick, who threw a complete game (six innings, 89 pitches).
House, Witcher, Ballard, Howard and Moses batted a solid .500 against the Braves. Howard and Moses each collected doubles along the way.
The Knights' second victory was a 5-4 over the Thomaston Warriors. This time it was Clark who pitched a complete game (six innings, 86 pitches).
Moses and Banks led Newton with a .667 average against the Warriors. Howard, Kirkpatrick (double), Clark and Wells hit for .500. Martin and Ballard each hit .333.
In the third game of the day, Newton beat Elite Attack, 8-3. James pitched a complete game (five innings, 76 pitches) and had an earned run average of 2.80. Wells led the team with a 1.000 batting average (2-for-2). Banks hit .500, including a double.
The championship game ended at 11:30 p.m. with the Knights winning the tournament against the Fayette Mudcats, 7-6.
Newton jumped out to an early six-run lead in the first inning with some aggressive third base coaching by Coach James.
After the strong start, the Knights had to hold off a methodical rally by the Mudcats, which ended with the winning run scoring in the top of the sixth and strong defensive play by the infield in the bottom half of the inning.
Ballard started the game with Moses coming in relief. James, Moses and Wells led the team with .500 batting averages. Ballard and Martin each hit .333.
Throughout the entire tournament, Newton pitchers combined for a 3.65 ERA.
Offensively, Wells had the hottest bat, averaging .571 at the plate. Moses and Banks hit .500 apiece. Howard batted .400, while Ballard hit .333 overall.
In addition, Moses scored six runs and stole 11 bases. Martin followed with five runs and 12 stolen bases.
Coach James was very excited about the win against a team like the Fayette Mudcats, especially this early for the Newton Knights who have only competed in two tournaments.
Their first tournament, which was held earlier this year in Monroe, resulted in a second place finish.