“I have to laugh to keep from crying” was Newton coach Andre Byrd’s summation of the Newton Rams baseball team’s sloppy 5-4 loss to the Morrow Mustangs Wednesday at Newton Stadium.
Things bounced the wrong way for the Rams from the start of the game, and with the loss, Newton falls to 7-7 overall and 3-2 in Region 2-AAAAAA.
According to Byrd, it was a lack of focus in practice Tuesday that led to the Rams’ poor performance against the Mustangs.
“My guys weren’t focused in practice yesterday,” Byrd said. “I told them that that (losing to Morrow) would happen if they played like they practiced – and it happened. Hopefully, they’ll learn from it and we’ll bounce back.”
After dispatching Morrow in the top of the first, Newton leadoff hitter Montravious Boykin stroked a 3-2 pitch into the right-centerfield gap for a triple. When the ball got by Morrow third baseman Akeem Newton, Boykin broke for home. However, the ball caromed off of the dugout and right back to the Mustangs. Boykin realized he wouldn’t score and tried to make it back to third, but Newton beat him to the bag and tagged him out.
“One of the cardinal rules of baseball is you don’t make the first out at third base,” Byrd lamented.
The base running error proved costly as the next hitter, Phil Rowe, coaxed a walk, which would have put runners on the corners with no outs. Two batters later, Shawn Guckenberger rapped a two-out single that could have plated Boykin, but Morrow pitcher Josiah Dixon struck out Rams’ first baseman Joshua Prince, ending the inning without harm.
Newton threatened again in the second inning after two-out singles by Auliver Astin and Levi Langford put runners at the corners. But, Boykin flew out to centerfield and the score remained 0-0 after two innings.
Morrow got on the scoreboard in the top of the third inning due in part to the lack of focus Coach Byrd mentioned.
Mustangs’ leadoff hitter A.J. Nettles drew a walk. Karlton Clark singled and Jonathan McKnight drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Morrow’s next batter, Malik Pierre, grounded back to pitcher Levi Langford, who threw home and got Nettles out on the force play.
With the bases still loaded, Morrow’s Dixon grounded to third baseman Allen Bowen, who fired home to force out Clark. McKnight, who had moved to up to third, scored on a Langford balk that also moved Pierre to third and Dixon to second. Morrow’s Newton hit a single that scored Pierre and Dixon, giving the Mustangs a 3-0 lead.
Newton managed to draw only two walks over the next two innings. However, after Guckenberger relieved Langford, he only allowed a lead-off single in the top of the fourth inning, and then sat down the next nine Mustangs in a row.
Newton finally got on the scoreboard after Bowen drove a two-out pitch over the leftfield wall, cutting Morrow’s lead to two after five innings, 3-1.
Newton scored an unearned run in its half of the sixth inning. Prince led off with a single. Johnson followed with another single. Morrow shortstop Josh Lowery tried to throw out Johnson at first, but his throw sailed high and allowed Prince to score on the throwing error and cut the lead to one run 3-2.
Guckenberger’s luck ran out in the top of the seventh inning as he walked the leadoff hitter and then gave up a first-pitch home run to Morrow’s Nettles, which put Morrow up 5-2.
Newton almost came back in its half of the seventh inning. Bowen hit a one-out double and advanced to third on a pass ball. After Guckenberger struck out, Prince drew a walk to put runners at first and third. Rams catcher Johnson hit a fly ball to left field that should’ve ended the game, but left-fielder Denard Miller dropped the ball, allowing Bowen and Prince to score on the error. Johnson represented the tying run at second, but Tristan McInerny flew out to right field to end the game.