COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton’s playoff hopes remained intact after beating Rockdale 10-6 in a crucial Region 8-AAAAAAA game on Wednesday.
However, the win did not come easy for the Rams (12-13-1, 4-7) as they allowed Rockdale (15-10, 6-5) to close the gap in the three innings.
Newton pitcher Christian Davis kept the Bulldogs off balance through the first 4.1 innings of the game as he held Rockdale to four hits, three coming in the first inning, while walking three and striking out six batters.
“I pulled him because he was dealing with cramps,” said Newton coach Andre Byrd. “At that point I felt comfortable pulling him because we had a nine-run lead.”
Newton, who scored 10 runs and had 12 hits in the first four innings, was hitless in the final two innings of the game when a single run would’ve ended the game by way of run-rule.
Doing their part were Jamal Boykin, Davis, Christian Murray and Keelon Tate with two hits each as eight of the nine batters had a hit against the Rockdale pitchers.
“Rockdale is not a bad team, so for us to put it together with 12 hits, that’s not the ball we’ve been playing all year,” said Byrd.
Leading 10-1 heading to the top of the fifth inning, the Rams needed one run to end the game under mercy rule. But Rockdale scored making it 10-2 before coming back with another run in the sixth inning.
Rockdale put the scare in the Rams in the seventh inning as they scored three runs before Blake Wilder got the final out of the game on a strikeout. While the Bulldogs helped themselves with key hits in the final inning, they also got a lot of help as the Newton defense kicked the ball around.
“They put pressure on themselves from nowhere,” said Byrd. “They get pressure and start throwing the ball like they forget what they’re doing. We were a lights-out baseball team for six innings, then the seventh inning comes and they just lose it. The positive thing is that we still won. I’m just glad we had a cushion going to the end.”
It looked like Newton was not going to have the cushion it had as Rockdale started the game by loading the bases with no outs. But the Rams’ defense gave up one run in what could have been a disastrous inning.
Newton found themselves in a similar situation as it loaded the bases with with no outs in the bottom of the first. But the Rams were able to score two runs for the early lead. Newton tacked on four more in the second inning before scoring twice in the third and fourth.
“It was big that they had bases loaded with no outs and only got one run across,” said Byrd. “That was huge. Then we did the same thing, but we got two across.”
The Rams find themselves in a must-win situation for the remainder of the season, as a loss possibly ends their playoff run. Newton will try to win the rubber match against the Bulldogs when they travel to Rockdale for the 5:55 game on Friday.
“We have to out-slug them. They’re going to put runs on the board and they’re going to hit the ball hard,” said Byrd. “The team that showed up (Wednesday) has to show up. We have to out-hit them. That’s the only way we’re going to beat them. We have good pitching but they have a great offense.”