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A season with a silver lining
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The 2012 season was definitely not what Newton softball coach Virginia Waters had in mind before things kicked off back in August.

Looking toward a season following an above .500, playoff campaign in 2011, Waters wanted to send the Rams five seniors out in a winning way.

Well, that didn't happen, but there was a silver lining.

The Rams started things off on a losing streak, and had several more throughout the season before refusing to end things quietly.

Newton was one of Region 2-AAAAAA's top six teams heading into the region tournament and took advantage of that placement, fighting its way to a playoff berth.

The Rams, for the second straight year, fell in the first round but showed why Waters enjoyed coaching them so much this season.

"This group of girls is probably the most laid back group we ever coached," Waters said. "It really was not only about winning but having a good time and fellowship. It was almost a little less painful this season because they tried to pick each other up. They tried, they had player meetings and they did things this year I haven't seen our girls do in the past, try to build each other up, stay focused and stay positive."

The biggest example of that positive attitude was toward the end of the season when the Rams fell to Lovejoy 8-6 late in the season and entered the region tournament tied with it and another team for fourth place.

Newton came out of the tiebreaker in fifth place, facing Lovejoy again. The Rams came out on top this time.

Newton then lost to Luella, entering them into the elimination bracket later than some other teams, such as Druid Hills.

Newton defeated Druid Hills after getting an early lead, putting the Rams into the playoffs.

"It was big," Waters said. "It was something we were having issues doing, which was finishing ball games, and we made sure we held off Lovejoy and Druid Hills in order to clinch the fourth playoff spot."

The playoff spot salvaged a season that didn't go so well for Newton, which didn't win its first game until meeting Spalding in a tournament in Griffin.

The Rams went 1-4 in that tournament, foreshadowing the rest of the season, which would prove to be more losses than wins, but the wins would count big.

"With the way the season started off this was a nice way to end it," Waters said. "We definitely lost some games during the season we expected to win. We went out on a good note, but we would have hoped for more for our seniors."

The Rams didn't last long in the playoffs, drawing a matchup against East Cowetta, which boasted a strong starting pitcher, who held off the Rams to just two runs in two games. East Coweta defeated Newton 10-2 in the opener of the best-of-three series, before finishing the Rams 12-0 in the nightcap.

"They have a phenomenal pitcher, and we don't have a true pitcher, but we did the best we could with what we had," Waters said.

Newton relied on several players in the circle with no players being a primary pitcher and saw two freshmen step up.

Ashton McKinon did a lot of pitching for the Rams, along with Caitlym Bowen rotating out with her. Lattice Albert did all of Newton's pitching in 2011 but moved primarily to second base in 2012.

"She was able to pitch some times this year, but we were able to do some things where we could take more advantage of her skills at second," Waters said. "We're going to miss her because as a coach you want ball players who would play wherever you need and not complain and Lattice did that."

Albert was one of several players to accommodate the Rams' needs. Among them was Val Yates, who moved to center field in her senior season. Yates had previously played right but "did a great job stepping up into that role for us," Waters said.

Stepping into right field was T'keyuh Williams, who also had some time as designated player.

"She's definitely my most improved player over the season," Waters said. "She definitely came around, because she didn't get a whole bunch of playing time last year. She told us early on she was ready and told us she could help us and she did."

Another senior to play where she was needed was DeAunna Jackson. Jackson played both the outfield and designated player.

"You can't say enough about a player, who will swap out and have respect for other teammates who want as much playing time as the others," Waters said.

Leading the way offensively for the Rams class of 2012 was Marie Diaz.

"Marie has been such an awesome offensive and defensive player for me throughout her four years," Waters said. "She hit the ball really hard this year and had lots of hits for extra bases."

Diaz' biggest hit came in the first state playoff game, where she got her first home run.

Now with the 2012 season concluded, Waters is busy trying to get her seniors matched up with colleges, if they want to play after high school.

After that she is hoping to prepare her one senior and five sophomores, along with any new players to the program, ready for a third playoff appearance.

"With the way the season started we weren't sure where we would be at the end," Waters said. "To still make it to the first round against someone like East Coweta, who is still in it and going to Columbus, you don't feel so bad."