Rain and thunder struck yesterday and not in a good way, forcing a delay that lasted almost two hours, but about twenty minutes before 4 p.m. the 11/12 Newton National League All-Star team faced off against Oconee County.
When the game did start, defense and good pitching were the constant theme.
Brent Stevenson, pitcher for Newton, allowed just one hit in the first inning and no runs. Newton struck first blood in the bottom of the first.
Stevenson put a groundball between first and second to get on base. Raquis Holmes followed him up with a line drive tucked in nicely between center and left field resulting in a double that moved Stevenson to third. The Newton bats stayed hot as Jacob Walden hit a single to bring in Stevenson. Newton came out of the first with a 1-0 lead.
Neither team got its offense going in the second inning, and the score remained 1-0.
After much of the same for Oconee, Newton went back up to bat at the bottom of the third. Seth Harper lined one to short that probably would have been a base hit, but the shortstop, Jackson Riddle made a nice catch. Harper was frustrated and threw his bat down, forcing the umpire to eject him from the game.
Fatigue set in for Stevenson at the top of the fourth inning.
“It was a very hot day today and of course we got here a little bit early for team pictures before the game. Of course with the kids it’s hard to keep them all corralled [so we told them], ‘Hey guys, calm down cause you’ll need that energy in the game,’” team manager Maurice Gates said. “He came out and he threw the ball very well for us then he got a little bit tired with the heat and all. He actually went a little bit longer than I was expecting him to. He did a really good job, he stayed close to the strike zone and he was able to get some big outs for us.”
Wild pitches from Stevenson led to a walk with a runner on first and third. Gates replaced Stevenson with Holmes with Netwon up 1-0. Danial Strickland of Oconee had a huge hit deep in left to bring in the runner on third and tie the game at 1-1.
Holmes was able to avoid a disaster, as he got out of the inning with two runners on base and the game tied at one.
Errors filled the bottom of the fourth inning, which allowed Newton another score after a passed ball at home brought in Jordan Shepherd. Newton scored again to go up 3-1 at the end of the fourth.
Gates instituted a pitch count because he knew his team would have to play again on Sunday and possibly Monday. After reaching a certain number, Holmes was replaced by Walden at pitcher.
“What you have to look at in this situation the players are on a pitch count. You know that you have to play tomorrow and you could possibly play on Monday so we just tried to come up with a plan before the game and try to make it work. Fortunately today, it worked out, so hopefully tomorrow it’ll be the same thing,” Gates said.
Oconee wasn’t the only team to make errors. Austin Chamberlin and Max Tumblin scored off a hit that resulted in a bad throw, but Walden got out of the inning with the game tied 3-3.
In the bottom of the fifth with two outs and the bases loaded, Shepherd came up to bat. With Shepherd down 0-2 in the count, it looked as if Newton wasn’t going to score. Then it happened. Shepherd launched one deep in left over the leftfielder’s head to bring in all three players, as Shepherd advanced to third.
Tumblin, who had been pitching the entire game was replaced with Riddle by Oconee manager Joey Echols, but the damage was done. Oconee came up to bat at the top of the sixth, and all momentum was stopped by a 6-3-5 double play led by Holmes.
“He’s a special player,” Gates said. “He’s one of those guys that can play multiple positions for you. If the ball is in his area whether it’s on offense or defense, look for him to make a play, and he was able to make a couple big plays for us today.”