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PREP BASEBALL: Newton drops first game in region series with Rockdale despite solid performance from freshman pitcher
Jevarra Martin
Newton freshman pitcher Jevarra Martin showed flashes of poise and potential on the bump in Tuesday's 8-2 loss to Rockdale. Martin helped hold the Bulldogs down to just one run until the game's sixth inning. -photo by Anthony Banks

COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton Rams (1-8, 0-1 in Region 8-AAAAAAA) opened a three-game Region 8-AAAAAAA series with rival Rockdale (3-5, 1-0) Tuesday night by losing an 8-2 decision in a game that, despite the score, gave coach James Jackson plenty to feel good about.

Topping that feel-good list, however, is something that had nothing to do with the scoreboard tally, rather the well being of his players.

Newton catcher Kawaskee Teemer and first baseman Daidrean Sims were both desperately running for a short fly ball and both ran over each other. Sims seemed to take the brunt of the hit, but it was a scary play all-around. At that point, Jackson shifted his focus completely from the game to his two players who suddenly shifted from mere athletes in the coach’s eyes to family.

“I was scared when I saw it happen,” Jackson said. “I didn’t care about the game anymore. I stopped everything I was doing and I went into dad mode. I went down to the ground to see what was going on with my boys. I love them like they are mine.”

Both Teemer and Sims were pretty banged up after the play, but they checked out fine after being evaluated by on-site athletic trainers. 

As for the game itself, the loss was a tough one to swallow for Newton, given that the game was much closer throughout than what the final tally indicated. Up until the 5th inning, the Rams trailed by a lone run, and it was at that point that Jackson’s squad showcased arguably its greatest strength.

In the 5th inning, the Rams put together a little rally because of their ability to effectively execute small ball — something Jackson has said since day one his bunch would have to excel in. 

Newton used a walk, two infield singles, an error and a double steal to take a 2-1 lead. The execution showed Jackson that his team isn’t far off from realizing its full potential.

“We’re growing, and that’s what I am trying to tell the kids and teach the boys,” he said. “We’re growing, as far as getting better on the field. We’re making plays. We’re turning double plays. We’re starting to communicate better. We’re calling bunt coverages without me saying anything. My catcher is looking better. I mean it’s looking a lot better.”

The Bulldogs offense eventually exploded in the top of the 6th as they added on seven runs to take back a commanding lead. However, Jackson said you can’t point fingers of blame squarely at Jevarra Martin, Newton’s starting pitcher, who excelled on the mound.

Martin only allowed two earned runs and three hits, but also fanned five Rockdale batters in 5 1/3 innings of work. In comparison, Rockdale’s Nicolas Osorio struck out eight while giving up just four hits and two runs in six innings.

The glaring difference between the two talented starters is their age. Newton’s Martin is just a freshman while Osorio holds the experience edge as a senior. For that reason alone, Jackson felt it necessary to praise Martin’s performance while acknowledging his potential.

 “He was a gamer today,” Jackson said. “I told him earlier that he was going to have the ball and he put his game face on. That’s the performance I was looking for. I knew he could do it. I knew he had it in him all along, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg right there.”

Jackson’s Rams will get a 24-hour turnaround shot at exacting a little revenge on Rockdale as they’ll travel to face the Bulldogs for game two of the region series Wednesday with first pitch slated for 5:55 p.m. at Rockdale. Game three will take place Friday back at Newton.