Down 5-3 at the top of the seventh inning, Newton 14U All-Stars climbed back into the game like Mufasa wasn’t able to, tying the game at 5-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh. It was the semifinals with a chance to go on to compete against North Carolina in the championship game and Louisiana was giving Newton all they had. An error moved a runner to second and Louisiana would knock the tying run in to give them the game and a shot at the title.
“The kids never quit just like they did in the state tournament. They never quit, never gave up. I’m very proud of them,” Tim Howard, Newton assistant coach, said.
Newton took third place in the world series following the Louisiana loss. They went 3-2 in the world series including a 3-2 opening win over Alabama, a team that also made the final four.
“We wanted that first win. We wanted to win the first day so we treated it as a championship game the first game,” Howard said.
“We hit the ball pretty good the whole tournament. We thought we would hit the ball well and we played great defense,” Howard said. “The first game we had three top 10 Sportscenter moments in the outfield. Mike Mathinson, Eric Shirley and Blake Jordan all made just unreal plays in the outfield diving, stretching out for the ball to save all with men on base. That game defensively we thought, ‘Well that’s how we expect to play.’”
That proved costly for Newton as they got blowed out by Florida 13-3, committing eight errors and leaving a number of runners on base. The All-Stars were able to win the next two contests beating Mississippi and Texas on their way to the semifinals.
Newton got a some good news after they made it home from the world series, as they were awarded the sportsmanship award which is voted on by tournament directors and umpires after the tournament is over for the players’s respect on the field toward umpires, coaches, players, and the coach’s attitude toward umpires, fans and players.
“We were real proud that we were awarded that because we had preached to them, ‘We’re going out there to represent ourselves, Newton County and the state of Georgia and we want people to remember us as a good ball team with a lot of respect and play the game well,’ and we did,” Howard said.
“We would have loved to won the trophy for the first time in Newton County and bring it back, but I think we’re just as proud to get the sportsmanship award because we had really coached that and other people saw it,” he added.
Howard says it was little odd getting the award because it’s usually awarded to other teams that go home early. He added that once you make it to the final four it gets tight, and people get upset.
Newton received overwhelming support from the community and the recreation department throughout the entire ordeal and Howard expressed his gratitude toward the parents and the rec department, especially Horace Stroud who traveled with the team, drove kids back and forth to games. Howard says having Stroud was like having another coach.
“The support we’ve had from Newton County, people texting, Facebook, coming to the games – we had a lot of people on Saturday and Sunday that drove down from Covington to watch the games and a lot of people from the recreation department came,” Howard said.
For Howard and the other coaches, the team’s accomplishments are bittersweet because this is the last time many of the players will play for the rec department.
Howard said, “We were most proud that we were able to take a group of kids that played on six different teams and within two weeks go to the state tournament and win, and within another three weeks go to the world series and play like a team that’s been playing together for years.”