By DJ MOORE
COVINGTON, Ga — The Newton Rams baseball team is coming off a playoff berth in the 2022 season — in fact, its first back-to-back postseason appearances since a string of four straight from 2012 through 2016 — and is looking to make it three straight this season.
Their 2022 campaign came to an end when the Rams lost a first round playoff series against Newnan losing their two games, 17-2 and 9-2, respectively.
The Rams finished the 2021-2022 season 8-19 overall while finishing fourth in Region 4-AAAAAA with a 3-9 record.
Their region this year will consist of newly added Archer and familiar foes such as Brookwood, Grayson, Parkview and South Gwinnett. In other words, it’ll be the same tough competition Newton’s grown to expect in region play.
“In this region, I feel like you can escape the fourth seed because of the tough teams that we play in the region,” head coach Derwin McNealy said. “We’ll have a chance to go deep in the playoffs.”
The Rams will be looking for more juice from its batters a year after averaging a .227 batting average as a team while hitting two home runs. Newton showed some prowess along the base paths, stealing 82 bags last year. But defensively, pitching and unforced mistakes were a problem. Newton’s team 7.22 ERA was two runs more than the national high school average of 5.10. Its fielding percentage was .850 and the Rams committed 82 errors.
With the majority of the team being juniors or under with little to no varsity experience, coach McNealy thinks that the experience will be good for this year’s team.
“I feel like we’ll be better this year because the guys will know the system,” McNealy said. “I think getting that experience actually playing their freshman year will help a lot.”
Every team has a goal set for the season, and the Rams’ goal this season will be to not get comfortable with just getting into the playoffs, but actually making a deep run when they make the playoffs and securing a top three seed.
McNealy and the Rams will be leaning on the leadership of sophomore Caden Brown, who will be playing a new position this year.
“Last year as a freshman, he took some lumps but he really had some high moments as we got deeper into the region,” McNealy said. “As a leader he is falling into that role. He’s a baseball player.”
Understanding how McNealy’s system works is one of the strengths that this year’s team has.
“Last year the buy-in was there, but it was the ability to understand and execute some of the things we were learning,” said McNealy. “So this year, our strength is that we are able to execute more consistently, and the guys understand how we want to play the game.”
The Newton baseball team will officially open its season on the road against the Morrow Mustangs on Feb. 6. And their first region series will take place March 13-17 as it hosts Brookwood.