The Newton County Dixie Boys All-Star team saw its season come to an end Tuesday as it lost to the Troup County All-Stars 10-4 in the final round of the state tournament. Troup County will now represent Georgia in the 13-year-old Dixie Boys World Series while Newton County will have to wait for another shot next year.
"I’m proud of my team, but I’m also disappointed," said Newton County coach Antonio Ross. "It’s hard standing here on the other side. Errors hurt us again and I don’t know — we just couldn’t pull it off. We played them [Troup] in two games, and it just seemed like they had our number." Newton County committed five errors in each of their two losses to Troup County.
Newton put up a good fight and even had the lead for three innings, but just like in its first game against Troup County, errors and the lack of timely hitting proved too much to overcome.
The game was scoreless for the first two innings. Ty Raynor toed the rubber for Newton, but after a shaky start, was pulled in the second inning. Raynor had escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first, but in the second inning, with men on second and third with one out, Ross didn’t want to push his luck a second time. Ross handed over the pitching duties to Avery Fuller. After getting rocked by Troup County two days earlier, Fuller could have crumbled physically or mentally. Instead Fuller delivered in spades. With men on second and third and with Troup’s top of the order up, Fuller threw down the gauntlet and struck out the next two batters to end the threat. As Troup County’s last batter went down on swings, catcher Dezmond Billingslea and the entire Newton team showed that they were amped up and ready to go as they walked off the field.
Newton County took that excitement into the next inning and scored two runs to take the lead. Billingslea dropped a single into shallow center field for the first RBI and Fuller’s sacrifice grounder provided the second.In the bottom half of the inning, Troup County scored a run of its own off of two infield errors, but after that, Fuller continued to dominate on the mound and Newton went up 4-1 in the top of the fifth inning.
For a second it looked like Newton might pull off the upset and keep its World Series hopes alive for one more game. But, in the bottom of the fifth inning, the clock finally struck 12 for Cinderella, and things went really bad, really fast.
Fuller’s magic began to fade; errors crept up again for the defense; and Troup County took advantage of it, scoring six runs on four hits and a hit batter. With Troup leading 8-4, Fuller was replaced by Grayson Pike who gave up one more run before the disastrous fifth inning came to a close.
In the top of the seventh inning, Newton replaced Pike with Shawn Guckenberger and Troup County scored one last run to make the final score 10-4.
"I think our pitcher [Fuller] got a little tired, but we didn’t have enough players on the bench to use a courtesy runner, and we were trying to give everyone a chance to play," said Ross. "But it just kind of unraveled for us. They got bases loaded, and they made a couple good hits and made a couple good plays and that decided the ball game."
Despite the loss, Newton County had plenty to be proud of. Throughout the tournament, the Newton County All-Stars played with extraordinary heart and showed remarkable class and sportsmanship, even in defeat. It was truly a thrill to watch.
"I got to coach a great group of guys," said Ross. "Everybody wants to coach the All-Star team. You’re coaching a bunch of studs, and you get to watch them grow and improve.
"And the coaches we had. I mean, I basically just managed because the coaches we had- Andre Byrd and Shawn Starks — they did a lot of good coaching. They made it easy on me. I wouldn’t want to coach with any other guys. That’s how good they were."