Newton kept its playoff hopes alive with a win over the favored East Coweta Indians 8-6 Tuesday night.
The Rams let a 4-2 lead slip away to trail 5-4, before going up for good in the bottom of the fourth. Even so, the outcome was uncertain until Newton's starter, Sherman Graves struck out the final Indian hitter with the tying runs on base in the seventh inning.
"Sherman put in a gutsy performance going the entire game to pick up the win," Newton coach Vincent Byams said. "That along with improved defensive play, were keys to the game."
East Coweta threatened to take an early lead in the top of the first with runners at first and third and only one out. But Newton eliminated the threat when the runner from first was thrown out attempting to steal by catcher Ryan
McCranie and Graves struck out the Indians clean-up hitter.
In the bottom of the first, Newton sent eight hitters to the plate. Jeremy Laguins walked and then Tripp Lofton reached first on a fielder's choice. McCranie followed with a single to center that got by the center fielder and Lofton scored all the way from first. Graves added an RBI single and Daniel Croom followed with a double to give Newton an early 3-0 lead.
The Indians put up two runs in the second on three hits with only one out, but Graves was able to strand a runner at third with a strike out and a pop-up to first.
In the bottom of the third, Newton added a run. Allen Bowen doubled with one out. Graves followed with a single, but Bowen was held up at third. With two outs, a routine grounder went through the Indians' second baseman, allowing Bowen to score. "A.B. (Bowen) has really come up big with his bat in our recent stretch of games," Byams said. "We had timely hits throughout the game."
The 4-2 lead didn't hold up for long. East Coweta started the top of the fourth with two walks. Graves was able to get the next two hitters out, but a base hit followed by a two-run error gave the Indians a 5-4 lead.
In the home half of the fourth, MJ Boykin led off with a walk and promptly stole second. With two outs, McCranie delivered a single to center to tie the game at 5-5. An error by the Indians on a grounder by Bowen allowed Cortliss Hardeman, running for the catcher, to score the go-ahead run.
The Indians' first two batters in the top of the sixth reached on walks with the lead runner having advanced to third on a wild pitch. After recording the first out on a strikeout, Graves attempted a pick-off of the runner at first, but the throw got away briefly from Loftin.
The runner from third attempted to score, but an excellent throw to McCranie, who had the plate blocked, got the runner on a close play.
In the heat of the moment, the Indians runner got up and hit McCranie in the chest, but the players were quickly separated before anything further could happen.
Graves then added the punctuation mark by striking out the batter to strand the remaining baserunner.
The Rams added some needed insurance in their half of the sixth.
Laguins walked and Loftin laid down a sacrifice bunt. McCranie walked and Bowen singled to load the bases. Both Graves and Zack Sullivan were walked to bring home two runs and up the lead to 8-5.
Graves came back out for the seventh inning and struck out the first hitter. After a walk, the second out was recorded on a comebacker to the mound.
However, a double scored the runner from first and the Indians drew within two runs of Newton.
A walk put the tying run on base, but Graves struck out the final hitter for the win that set off a celebration by the Rams players, coaches, and fans.
"Before the game started, I really wanted the weather to hold out because I could see in our players' eyes that they were ready to play this game," Byams said. "This was probably our best all-around game of the season thus far."
The victory was the first in the last six years over one of the top two teams in its region.
The win evens up the Rams 2-AAAAA region record at 6-6 (12-11 overall).
Newton played Westlake Thursday, before finishing its schedule next week with first place Luella and its final game of the regular season hosting Rockdale.