COVINGTON, GA. — Newton took care of business last week.
Squaring off against South Gwinnett in the first week of Region 4-AAAAAAA play, the Rams went on the road March 15 and collected an 8-3 victory. The clubs were originally scheduled to meet again two days later, but inclement weather postponed the contest, resulting in a doubleheader in Covington on Friday evening.
The Rams didn’t flinch. They breezed their way to a 3-0 victory in the front leg before pulling out a thrilling, 10-9 victory at the end of a back-and-forth battle in the night cap.
The importance of the sweep can’t be overstated. While region play is just getting ramped up, holding a three-game cushion over the Comets in a five-team region with four playoff spots up for grabs is a comfortable place for a team to be in at any point in the year.
“It’s a huge series win. With only five teams in the region, when you sweep one of them you don’t want to say you’re guaranteed a playoff spot, but you’re pretty much there as long as you handle your business,” Newton head coach Darrell Helm said. “It was a hard-fought series. We got to see a lot of good stuff from the kids in all three [games,] especially the way they fought back in this last one.”
In Friday’s opening game, the Rams squandered scoring opportunities in the first and second innings before setting themselves up once again in the third. After a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch loaded with bases with no outs, a South Gwinnett fielding error allowed Jordan Nolley to trot home for the first run. In the ensuing at-bat, Lucas Ballard lifted a sacrifice fly to left, plating Justin Brown to make it 2-0.
Zion ross led off the fourth inning by wearing a pitch to earn a free trip down to first base. He proceeded to steal second and third base before scoring on a Nolley groundout, pushing Newton’s advantage out to 3-0.
Will Standard kept the Comets at bay from the bump. He tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and issuing one walk while striking out four in the win.
Newton outscored South Gwinnett by a cumulative total of 11-3 in the first two games of the series. However, the Comets refused to roll over and allow the Rams to break out the brooms with ease.
Newton partook in Senior Night festivities between games, then, once again, a strong third inning put the Rams out in front. Brown lined a two-run double to center field, following by a two-run single from Nolan McCamy to put Newton up 4-0.
The Comets quickly had an answer.
With one out recorded in the fourth inning, South Gwinnett’s Pattrick Drummond roped a two-run double to left field to give his club its first runs of the day. Minutes later, Drummond and teammate Christian Miller came rounded the bases on a fielding error and tied the game. The score then flipped the other way as Jeramie Favors raced home on a wild pitch to put the Comets ahead, 5-4.
The Rams also capitalized on a wild pitch in the fourth inning as one allowed Tyler Bell to cross the plate and tie the game at 5.
With a pair of runners on base and nobody out in the fifth inning, Newton’s Jevarra Martin Jr. smoked a two-run double to deep left field. The hit pumped electricity into the home dugout and crowd, and initially seemed to be the final dagger in the Comets.
But South Gwinnett countered. The Comets produced a seventh-inning rally, pushing four runs across to storm back in front a 9-7 and put themselves three outs away from spoiling Senior Night.
In the home half of the seventh, the first pitch resulted in the first out, further dwindling Newton’s chances of a comeback. Then Martin settled into the left-handed batter’s box. He played the role of hero yet again, this time blasting a ball to the warning track in center field and racing his way to third base for a triple.
Martin’s hit started a rally that was followed up with a Kaleel King RBI single, and came to a head with a pair of wild pitches scoring the game-tying and game-winning runs, courtesy of King and Bell.
“Jevarra’s been one of the leaders we’ve had all year, from pitching to playing first base,” Helm said. “And his bat has really come around this year. He’s been a huge part of our success.”
Martin helped deliver another victory Monday, March 22, with a walk-off home run to give the Rams (9-5, 3-0) a 9-7 victory over non-region adversary Madison County. The Rams will be back in action later this week against Putnam County (Wednesday, March 24) and Madison County (Thursday, March 25) before resuming their region slate against Grayson next week.