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Playing for keeps
Newton/Rockdale rivalry reignited
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A longtime rivalry will be reignited this week when the Newton/Rockdale baseball teams play a three-game series with playoff implications on the line.

Newton is currently in third place in the region with a 7-4 region record, while Rockdale is just two games back at 6-6 in the region.

“It’s going to be for third and fourth, probably even second,” Andre Byrd, Newton head coach, said. “It’s an old-school rivalry, back to Newton/Rockdale. We’re about the same. Our records are about identical, but I think we’ve got them by one game, and our teams are identical. So it’s going to be a big showdown.”

The two teams are similar, but in the past couple of weeks they’ve headed in different directions. Newton has won eight straight games and finally lifted its record above .500 at 11-9 overall. Rockdale on the other hand has lost six straight games and saw its record dip below .500 at 9-12 overall.

In rivalry games you can throw records out of the window. This will be both team’s last series before the playoffs and the team that loses the series will be a No. 4 seed and have to travel to play a top tier team in the playoffs.

“I’m not originally from Newton County, but when I got to Newton County that’s all I heard about how back in the day Rockdale and Newton County used to go back and forth, back and forth,” Byrd said. “When we played them last year we won the region, but our toughest games in the region were against them. I expect them to play the same and give us a good shot because again, no one wants to be the No. 4 seed playing the No. 1 seed.”

Both teams are young with most of the rosters comprised of sophomores and juniors, as they each have just four seniors. Rockdale’s first year head coach Jonathan Brewer is new to the rivalry, but Byrd says they’ve talked through email and on the phone and that he seems like a really nice guy.

“I guess next week won’t be too friendly,” Byrd laughed.

Newton is coming off a series win over Lovejoy, but the Rams didn’t look like they should have against a team that’s winless in the region. The pitching wasn’t at the level Newton is used to, but the offense powered through to a 10-5 and a 12-8 victory in a double header.

“We gotta have quality pitching,” Byrd said. “I feel as though we didn’t have good pitching tonight. I feel as though if we get back to our old ways – the series against Tucker, the series against Alcovy. If we get pitching like that we should be fine against them.”
The series kicks off on Monday at Newton 5:55 p.m. before heading over to Rockdale on Wednesday and back to Newton on Thursday.