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On the path to Williamsport
Newton County Little League team wins district title
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In its second year of existence the Newton County Recreation Commission’s Little League team is one step closer to Williamsport, Pa., and the Little League World Series.

The Newton County “American” 12-year-old baseball team won the District 10 tournament at the Bogart Sports Complex in Oconee County with a 4-1 victory over the Athens All Stars Monday.

The team was able to win all four of its games at Bogart, opening with a 7-1 win over the Newton County “National” team, defeating Gainesville 5-1 and Athens 1-0 before meeting Athens again in the district championship.

In the final game of the district tournament, which started July 3 and kept getting pushed back due to rain, Newton County took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning thanks to Jamal Boykin and Spurgon Gaither. Boykin led off the frame with a single, stole second and was driven home on a double to the left-field fence by Gaither.

Athens answered in the top of the fourth and the score remained knotted at 1-1 until the bottom of the fifth.

Boykin again got on base to lead off the inning with a single, and Blake Wilder was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second for Newton County. Hunter Smith then stepped up to the plate, and delivered a hanging curve ball over the center field fence for a three-run homer and the final score.

Newton County shut down Athens in the final half inning to secure a spot in the state tournament beginning June 19 at Richmond Hills in Savannah.

Smith’s power ball propelled Newton County past Athens, but it was pitching that enabled it to be so successful at the district level.

Jesse Calalay pitched the first four innings, allowing just the one run, and C.J. Thomas came in in the fifth inning to finish it out. Calalay finished the tournament with an .85 ERA, converting 74 percent of his 101 pitches throughout 11 innings for strikes.

Calalay and Thomas were two of seven pitchers for the Newton County “American” team, which allowed three runs throughout the four games. Newton County’s other pitchers are Boykin, Smith, Wilder, Christian Davis and Christian Murray.

“The strength of the team is pitching,” Newton County “American” coach Tinsley Bailey said. “We hit the ball well throughout the tournament, but not as well as I was hoping because we faced good pitching throughout the tournament.”

As a team, Newton County had a .425 average in Bogart, and will look to improve on that in Savannah. The winner of the state tourney will then go on to the regional tournament, playing the state champions from Florida, Virginia, Alabama and around the South. That tournament winner will go on to Williamsport to determine the best Little League team. It is the second year the Newton County Recreation Commission has had Little League baseball, with last year’s team losing to Athens in the final of the district tournament.