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The Newton Lady Rams opened their softball season Friday evening with an 8-4 victory over Salem at the Griffin Diamond Classic tournament in Griffin.

Sophomore Holly Springer pitched five solid innings against Salem en route to the win and shortstop Markea Sheppard collected three hits and drove in a run.

"Holly came out really strong," Newton coach Jason LaChappelle said. "She's been phenomenal in the off season. I know she's been working hard and that showed today."

Newton wasted no time, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Sheppard led off the game with a single and moved to second after Sammi Becker drew a walk. After Salem retired the next batter, Haleigh Higgins came through with a single to drive in the first run while the second runner scored as the result of an interference call, even though the throw home beat the runner by ten feet.

After the Lady Seminoles went quietly in their half of the second, New

ton poured it on in the bottom of the inning, scoring five times on three straight hits by Sheppard, Becker and Springer.

"I told the girls before the game that it was going to end up with who had the most base hits at the end of the game," LaChappelle added. "They came out and did a great job."

Salem added three runs in the top of the third inning after Newton's defense faltered slightly. With the bases loaded, Springer gave up a run on a hit batsman and Jessica Vason plated two more runners with a single that Newton misplayed.

Newton pushed their lead to 8-3 in the bottom of the third after Sheppard knocked in a run with her third hit.

Salem picked up a run in the top of the fourth on a Kristi Allbritten triple in the right field gap but a good relay to home plate cut her down and the Lady Seminoles trailed 8-4 heading to the bottom of the inning.

Higgins and Misha Roberts led off the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back hits but Salem held the Lady Rams scoreless the rest of the way.

Salem failed to score in their half of the fifth and the game was called for time.

LaChappelle was pleased by his team's effort and feels the Lady Rams will only improve with time.

"For a young team, they are pretty consistent all the way across the board," he said. "That was one of the things I was worried about was coming out with such a young team. We lost six seniors from last year, but I am extremely pleased with what I saw both offensively and defensively."

The Lady Rams play five games in all during the two-day tournament. With the quick pace five games in two days to start the season, LaChappelle hopes to get a good feel for his ball club.

"We did this same tournament last year and it's the way I like to start my season," he said. "We want to come out and hit the ball hard for two days and see what the girls have. It's a good way to see what we need to work on early in the year and not waste a couple of weeks trying to find that out."

Later in the evening, Newton dropped a 3-1 decision to Crisp County in pool play.