COVINGTON, Ga. — Coming off a year where Newton only had two graduating seniors, the Lady Rams will feature a youthful squad in 2023. Right now, there are approximately eight to 10 freshmen, a handful of sophomores, a couple of juniors and four seniors.
Despite fielding a young squad, head coach Virginia Tucker-Smith expects the underclassmen to step up in big ways. In fact, she and senior Aaliyah Wilcox believe that the roster is filled with “hidden talent.”
“When we’ve been in the cages or I’ve just watched defensive drills, they’re go-getters,” Tucker-Smith said. “I’ll work all day long with you if you show me you’re interested. We have a lot of young girls who I think are going to make some waves. They’re going to surprise some people.”
Even so, Tucker-Smith is looking to her upperclassmen to step up all over the field.
One of the seniors to replace from a year ago will be Kyla Stroud, who is now playing college softball at Auburn University. She provided power with her at-bats having a plus-.500 average and multiple homers.
Wilcox seems ready to provide a big bat in addition to Elle Standard set to lead in the pitcher’s circle.
Wilcox recorded a .498 batting average last season with her First Team All-Region honor while Standard registered a Region 4-AAAAAAA honorable mention worthy junior year. Standard also pitched in all but three games for the Lady Rams.
Newton had a down year last fall. It finished with a 4-19 overall record paired with a 3-12 mark in Region 4-AAAAAAA. Amid a rough go, the Lady Rams did show progress when going up against region opponents.
The Lady Rams faced each region foe — Brookwood, Grayson, Parkview, South Gwinnett and Archer — three times.
In the first round of matchups, Newton’s average margin of defeat was 10 runs. In round No. 2, it decreased to 9.5 runs. Then, in the final matchups, the margin of defeat shrank exponentially to 4.5 runs.
Newton defeated South Gwinnett in all three contests, too, including a win on senior night.
Over the summer, Tucker-Smith has noticed a camaraderie formed among the players. She hopes that if adversity is presented, the Lady Rams will lean on that chemistry midseason.
“I know that, in years past, there’s been quiet when you’re not doing well,” Tucker-Smith said. “And we can’t do that. That’s one of the things that I’ve drilled into my older girls. I need us to forget what just happened and just restart.”
Another emphasis the Lady Rams honed in on the home stretch of last season was the ability to play “small ball.”
I’m excited to see the younger girls and how well that they slide into positions and get comfortable. I want them to want to win and have fun and be a respected program.Virginia Tucker-Smith, head coach of the Newton Lady Rams
Tucker-Smith’s mission beginning this year is to pick that up where the squad left off.
“Small ball is going to be more what we do, which is fine with me. That’s something that I begged for last year, too,” Tucker-Smith said. “I don’t care how many home runs you hit. I’d much rather you be on base every time. I’d much rather us hit base-to-base, because those hits come way more often. Sometimes girls get a couple [home runs] and it’s like that’s all they can think about. Then, once you think about it and try to do it, you never can do it.”
The Lady Rams’ 2023 campaign begins road heavy with nine of their first 10 games being away.
Newton begins with non-region contests at Social Circle, Monroe Area and BASA. Its region schedule begins with games against Brookwood, Grayson (at home) and Parkview.
The 2023 Newton County Diamond Day will be hosted by Alcovy High School on Saturday, Aug. 26, which Newton will take a part in.
One of the things Tucker-Smith wants for this year’s senior group is to finish with a winning record. And the Lady Rams want to advance back to the postseason after a year hiatus and make some noise in the state playoffs.
Above all, though, Tucker-Smith looks forward to seeing her team perform game in and game out.
“We got a lot of girls who have a lot of potential. There’s actually some young girls who will probably play major roles in varsity this year. We’re seeing a lot of great things,” Tucker-Smith said. “A lot of my younger girls, they’re going to play big roles once varsity season comes around.
“I’m excited to see the younger girls and how well that they slide into positions and get comfortable. I want them to want to win and have fun and be a respected program.”
08/03 — @ Loganville, 5:30 p.m. (Scrimmage)
08/07 — @ Social Circle, 6:30 p.m.
08/08 — @ Monroe Area, 5:30 p.m.
08/15 — @ BASA, 7 p.m.
*08/17 — @ Brookwood, 6:30 p.m.
*08/22 — vs. Grayson, 7 p.m.
*08/24 — @ Parkview, 6:30 p.m.
08/26 — @ Alcovy, Eastside (NCSS Diamond Day)
08/28 — @ Rockdale County, 5:30 p.m.
*08/29 — @ South Gwinnett, 5:30 p.m.
*08/31 — @ Archer, 6:30 p.m.
09/06 — vs. Social Circle, 6:30 p.m.
*09/07 — vs. Brookwood, 7 p.m.
*09/12 — @ Grayson, 7 p.m.
*09/14 — vs. Parkview, 7 p.m.
*09/19 — vs. South Gwinnett, 5:30 p.m.
09/20 — @ SWD, 5:30 p.m.
*09/21 — vs. Archer, 7 p.m.
09/22-23 — Lady Dog Invitational
*09/26 — @ Brookwood, 6 p.m.
*09/28 — vs. Grayson, 6 p.m.
*10/03 — @ Parkview, 6 p.m.
*10/04 — @ South Gwinnett, 6 p.m.
10/05 — vs. BASA, 5 p.m.
10/10 — vs. Salem, 5:30 p.m.
*10/11 — @ Archer, 6 p.m.
*Denotes Region 4-AAAAAAA matchups