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Newton keeps pace in region
Beau McCranie
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Newton stayed within one game of fourth place Westlake by dominating the visiting Langston-Hughes Panthers 10-0 Friday night.

Offensively the Rams racked up 11 hits and, defensively, Ryan McCranie's submarine pitching overwhelmed the Langston-Hughes hitters, as Newton run-ruled the Panthers in six innings.

Allen Bowen, Sherman Graves, and Zack Sullivan had seven of the Rams 11 hits to pace Newton's attack.

McCranie quickly disposed of the Panthers in the top of the first on two strikeouts and a comebacker to the mound. In the bottom of the inning, the Rams jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a RBI double by Bowen and a Sullivan single.

In the second and third, McCranie again retired Langston-Hughes in order, but in the fourth the Panthers threatened by loading the bases with no outs and without benefit of a ball leaving the infield. The first Panther hitter struck-out, but the third strike got away.

Catcher Floyd Ellis scrambled to make the throw to first, but the ball was dropped allowing the runner to reach first. A bunt moved the runner to second, but the second baseman was a bit late covering first and the hitter was safe at first. With runners on first and second, the next Panther hitter loaded the bases on a slow roller to short that he beat out for an infield hit. However, McCranie remained unflustered and struck out the next two hitters and ended the inning coaxing a grounder to second.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Rams struck with four additional runs. MJ Boykin walked to open the inning and moved to second on a wild pitch. Jeremy Laguins drove him home with an RBI single. Then with two outs, Bowen walked and Graves picked up his second RBI of the game with a hard hit single to left. Bowen also scored as the ball got past the Panther left fielder. Sullivan followed with an RBI single to make the score 6-0.

"AB (Bowen) and Zack led our hitting attack tonight," Newton coach Vincent Byams said. "We did a good job of putting the ball in play."

After McCranie retired the side in the fifth and allowed only one runner to reach in the sixth on a walk, the Rams put away the Panthers with another four run inning in the bottom of the sixth that featured an RBI single by Shawn Guckenberger and a long sacrifice fly by Dez Billingslea.

For the game McCranie allowed only one ball to leave the infield - a short flyout to center.

He recorded eight strikeouts and allowed only the two infield hits and one walk.

"Ryan McCranie really stepped up tonight and especially got quick outs early to set the pace and made some nice plays on balls hit back to him," Byams said.

Next week the Rams (5-6 in region 2-AAAAA) take on the difficult task of hosting second place East Coweta on Tuesday and fourth place Westlake Friday in their uphill battle for the playoffs.