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Briem, Fuller shine on diamond
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The Newton, Alcovy and Eastside baseball teams faced each other early in the season, giving local fans a chance right at the start of the year to see the area's best players.

The Eagles turned a successful 8-2 start into a playoff appearance, and Alcovy and Newton's teams went right down to the end of the season to determine their playoff fates.

Throughout a baseball season which brought Newton County baseball fans many exciting moments, several players stood out.

Among the selections for The Covington News' 2012 All-County baseball teams, Eastside's Jason Briem stood out with his bat, and was named offensive player of the year.

Alcovy's Austin Fuller dominated on the mound, earning the title of All-County Pitcher of the Year.

The Eagles finished 22-6 overall and lost just two times in 16 Region 4-AAA games, earning a home playoff matchup.

Eastside scored 244 runs during the regular season, 9.4 per games. A big part of the Eagles offensive success was due in part to the middle-of-the-order power of Briem.

Briem, a junior, led the Eagles with a .518 batting average, tallying a team-high 44 hits in 85 at bats. Briem also had team highs in RBIs, with 40, home runs, with seven and singles, with 26. He scored 38 runs and stole seven bases.

Briem anchored an offense that also had offensive stars Keith Buckhault and Jake Wright.

"He, with Buckhault and Wright were the kids we had trouble getting out the most," Alcovy coach Casey Bates said.

Alcovy wasn't the only team to have trouble with Buckhault, Wright, Briem and the rest of the Eagles' lineup. Newton also couldn't find an answer for Eastside, as the Eagles picked up wins in each of the intra-county games.

Eastside defeated Newton 9-3 to open the season, before beating Alcovy 8-4 two nights later.

Alcovy was able to beat Newton 10-9 in a tight game fitting of a cross-town rivalry, taking nine innings.

The Tigers finished 13-12 overall and 8-6 in Region 3-AAAA, giving up 5.9 runs per game with four shutouts.

A big reason for the defensive success is Fuller.
Fuller pitched four shutouts in his first five games this season.

Fuller had such success because of his ability to throw strikes, while not giving up walks.

"He threw strikes," Bates said. "That was the difference this year in our pitching staff from last year. We walked half as many batters this year."

The Tigers averaged 2.6 walks per game, down from 4.5 a year ago.

"When you throw strikes in high school, you're going to win a lot of ball games," Bates said. "What wins in high school usually is walks and errors, who's going to have the least amount of walks and errors."

Low errors and walks are what teams strived to accomplish all season, was limit walks and play strong defense. That starts with pitching.
Three Newton County pitchers stood out, one from each school, among the top hurlers in the area for the All-County team.

Fuller represents Alcovy, while Newton left-hander and Savannah State signee Tripp Loftin was chosen from the Rams.

Eastside's Tyler Bailey also earned his way onto the All-County team thanks to his 2.02 ERA. Bailey also threw a complete game in a 7-4 win over Spalding on April 9.

If the All-County team took the field, Bailey, Loftin and Fuller would throw to Ryan McCranie.

The Newton catcher threw out about 80 percent of attempted stealers, and offensively, hit five home runs.

The senior will be headed to Georgia Perimeter, along with Alcovy Bowen Braswell.

Along with teammates at Georgia Perimeter, Braswell and McCranie are also teammates on the All-County team.

Braswell, who played a lot of shortstop, but was a utility player for the Tigers, teams up in the All-County infield with Newton sophomore shortstop Allen Bowen.

Filling out the infield, are two of the county's strongest offensive players in Briem and Keith Buckhault at third.

Buckhault hit .482 with six home runs and 32 RBI for the Eagles.
Eastside also has two players in the outfield, in Matt Hitchcock and Jake Wright.

Hitchcock hit .325 and was a strong defensive presence in the outfield.

Wright had 26 hits in 89 at bats. He hit .292 with three home runs and 26 RBI.

Sherman Graves also earned a spot in the All-County outfield, who will also play at Savannah State.

Jake Jones takes up the spot of designated hitter after a strong year at Alcovy.

The Coach of the Year nod goes to Eastside's Brad Weir.
Weir took over the Eagles at the beginning of this season and helped lead the Eagles to a playoff appearance in his first year.