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PREP BASEBALL: Newton rally against South Gwinnett falls short, Rams season comes to end
Blake Wilder
Newton's Blake Wilder pitched a complete game and, except for one inning, did his best from the mound to keep the Rams within striking distance of a playoff berth. - photo by Sydney Chacon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton’s baseball team saw an opening to make it to the Class AAAAAAA playoffs late Thursday evening in a do-or-die situation before that door was slammed shut with a double play as they fell to South Gwinnett 4-3 on Thursday.

Trailing 4-1 heading to the bottom of the seventh, and facing a tricky side-armed pitcher in Jack McCarthy who tossed a no-hitter last Friday against Shiloh, a two-run single by Blake Wilder brought the Rams (13-16-1 overall, 5-10 Region 8-AAAAAA) to within one run with one out. 

But with runners on first and second, a double play ended the threat and Newton’s dreams of postseason play were dashed. 

“Our season has been kind of crazy. It would’ve been good to pull it out at the end,” said Newton coach Andre Byrd. “The low strike zone changed the hitting approach at the plate. We don’t hit into that double play if we didn’t have to scoop that ball off home plate.”

Newton's Jamal Boykin prepares to make a play at second on a South Gwinnett base runner. - photo by Sydney Chacon

Despite the loss, Byrd said he tips his cap to the resilience of his team.

“They fought for the first time all year. I’m not upset with them. I think we played well enough to win. I think we should’ve pulled it off at the end. I always said we would be in the ball game, we just had to find our sticks.”

Newton ended the game with six hits with Khalil Wilcox pacing the team going 2-for-4 with a double and triple.

The Rams had a hard time against McCarthy. Through four innings, the South Gwinnett (20-10, 10-5) right-hander gave up just three hits while striking out five and walking one batter.

As it has for most of the season for the Rams, the game came down to one inning. That one inning was the first when the Comets scored three runs with two outs. 

However, Wilder kept South Gwinnett at bay for the rest of the night with its only other run coming in the fifth inning to make it 4-0.

Wilder pitched a complete game allowing eight hits while striking out three and walking one.

Newton made it a three-run game with Wilcox scoring on a Parker Kauffman fielder’s choice in the sixth inning. 

The Rams had their chances to score before the sixth inning as they left nine runners stranded including six in scoring position.

We had a couple running mistakes, but you can’t leave it to the umpire,” Byrd said. “I’m proud of them,” “It’s been a real journey. We still came out with 13 wins and that’s still pretty big. We were one game short of the playoffs. One game short of the playoffs still means a lot, especially with the region we play in. 

“It’s unfortunate that we’re in a stacked region, per se. I think any other region in the state and a couple probably get in. That 1-0 loss to Shiloh (on March 26) haunts us and it haunts us right now. As a matter of fact it got us.”