Freshmen and sophomores had plenty of influence in Newton’s 2013 baseball season, which will pay dividends in 2014.
Not only will those younger players mature, but some key players will return to health from injuries, which kept them out throughout much of the Rams’ 8-18 season.
Two of those losses came Friday as Newnan eliminated the third-seeded Rams in a two-game sweep from the first round of the AAAAAA playoffs.
Newnan won the first game 15-9 and the second 11-0.
In game one, the Rams had it within three, 12-9, heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, but couldn’t capitalize in the final two innings.
“They had some timely hits and we had a few errors which they were able to capitalize on,” Newton coach Vince Byams said. “In the state playoffs, those are teams that are able to capitalize on those mistakes.”
Game two was all Newnan pitching as its starter, throwing in the upper 80s to 90s, kept Newton’s bats at bay.
“They have strong pitching,” Byams said. “Their second starter was phenomenal.”
The Rams earned the No. 3 seed after a 6-6 Region 2-AAAAAA, with three of those wins being Newton’s opening three league contests.
Newton went on a four-game winning streak and won five of six to start the region season, before losing 13 of the next 14.
“It was a roller coaster of having injuries and making adjustments down the stretch,” Byams said.
The Rams lost such players as junior Allen Bowen, causing the need for youngsters to step up. Among them were freshmen Alex Johnson, Augustus Murray and Auliver Astin, who had to play key roles in the state playoffs as ninth graders.
“We had to lean on some sophomores and freshmen to perform for us,” Byams said. “We’re throwing sophomore and freshmen pitchers and freshmen position players, who got an opportunity to play in the state playoffs on the varsity level, and were given experience and opportunity to see what it’s like on the varsity level and the state level.”
That level of game experience will help the Rams in the future, as Newton loses just one senior, Jeremy Laguins. The Rams will return Bowen, Shawn Guckenberger and M.J. Boykin for their senior seasons, to add in with the experienced underclassmen.
“Those three are looking to be strong seniors next year,” Byams said.