COVINGTON, Ga -- Next stop, state tournament for the Newton Lady Rams' softball team.
Newton advanced as the third seed in next week's Class AAAAAAA state tournament by beating the Shiloh Lady Generals 13-6 in a decisive Game 3 in the Region 8-AAAAAAA tournament on Thursday after splitting games one and two Wednesday.
Afterward, first year Newton coach, Erin Steele didn't try to contain her excitement.
“I’m so pumped,” Steele said. “This whole season we’ve gone back and fourth (with Shiloh). They’ve beat us by one run. We’ve beat them by one run. I’m glad we got a decisive win. It puts us in a good spot to go into first round of state.”
It was a special moment as well for Newton’s ace pitcher, Britney Ellis. The senior pitched for the last time of her high school career on the Rams' home field on Thursday. That was the talk of the crowd as the game went into the seventh inning.
“(Ellis has)pitched all four years here,” said Steele. “She hit her spots. We wanted her to stay focused. We told her that this is it and it matters. And so she was focused from the start.”
Ellis also contributed two runs to her team’s winning score. One scored at the top of the fifth inning and the other in the sixth inning, with Shamya Turk as the courtesy runner.
Ellis also had three RBIs in the game. Two of which came in the sixth inning, when the Lady Rams’ offense exploded, breaking the game open.
After ending the fifth inning trailing Shiloh 4-3, Newton took no time catching up. They scored six runs before turning the inning over.
“The girls finally adjusted,” said Steele. “We told them that the pitcher was tired. She wasn’t throwing as many strikes. They listened. They waited on pitches that were their’s and it just opened up.”
Newton’s catcher Gabby Lester, Grace Dial and Madison McDaniel loaded the bases with zero outs to start the rally. Tijunna Freeman sacrificed herself to bring Lester home, tying the score. Ellis then brought Dial and McDaniel to home plate with a single.
After Newton extended things to a 6-4 lead, Shiloh tried to regroup by switching their pitcher from Katherine Fears to Jala Myers. But it didn't stop Newton’s Mariah Williams and Ty’Liyah Hardeman who helped stretch the lead as they put the score at an 8-4 advantage with runs of their own.
Shiloh tried to start a rally on two outs during its side of the sixth. They were successful when Adia Polk blasted a homer, sending Tahjanee Phillips home as well, making an 8-6 score.
Phillips and Polk both had two runs for the night. Phillips actually started off the scoring for the Lady Generals in the first inning, while Polk got her first run in the third inning. Both got onto base with triples.
Fears and Madison Elliott also got on the scoreboard for Shiloh in the fourth inning, putting them in the lead for the first time in the game.
“We did an awesome job picking each other up,” said Steele about Newton’s defense. “Even though we made errors. We were there to back each other up. Stuff like that makes a big difference.”
The uptick in defense helped position Newton to eventually pull away. To add a little more cushion, McDaniel, Williams and Hardeman all got their second runs in the last inning, with Ellis getting another RBI for McDaniel. Freeman also got her first run of the night at the top of the seventh. From there, Shiloh could not respond.
Aulora Edwards and Allyriah Russell started off the scoring for the Lady Rams, despite facing two outs in the opening frame. Lester collected two RBIs for those runs with a double.
“I enjoy playing (Shiloh),” said Steele. “It’s always a good game no matter what’s going on. I definitely enjoy playing them. Maybe it’s a rivalry now that we played them five times this year. They’re a good region team we like to play.”
Newton will travel to Parkview to compete in the first round of Class AAAAAAA state competition. The three-game series will begin on Thursday.