COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton High School baseball team played host to Lakeside for its home opener Thursday night, but the visiting Panthers made sure festivities were held to a minimum.
Lakeside scattered 10 hits, drew nine walks and induced an abundance of fielding miscues en route to collecting a 19-1 victory in three innings. The mercy rule-shortened defeat dropped the Rams to 1-4 on the season, while the Panthers improved to 4-2.
“We’ve just got to get better. We didn’t really do much of anything really well,” first-year head coach Darrell Helm said. “The small mistakes are still killing us. It’s the little things — the fundamental stuff that we keep preaching in practice — that's showing up more in games. Hopefully this is an eye-opener for the kids that we’re not just preaching, we’re preaching for a reason.”
The Panthers promptly pounced on the Rams, pushing five runs across in the first inning. Four of those came with two outs recorded as the home club desperately tried to find its way out of the inning.
Looking to answer in the home half of the opening frame, Newton put runners on second and third with two away. But Lakeside sophomore Jack Ratley shut the door with a strikeout, sending the Panthers back to the plate with everything working in their favor.
Things quickly unraveled from there as Lakeside plated eight runs in the second inning and six more in the third. The Rams narrowly avoided the shutout thanks to a passed ball two pitches before the final out of the night was recorded.
Newton will have a quick turnaround. The club will hit the road Saturday for a doubleheader with cross-county rival Alcovy (4-2), who's coming off back-to-back wins over Rockdale County. The Rams won’t have much time to lick their wounds, but that might work in their favor as they look to flush Thursday night’s debacle and recoup for the weekend.
“Hopefully we see a whole different team against Alcovy,” Helm said. “A team that we come out, compete and minimize our errors. This game’s over. We’ve got to forget it and keep moving forward.”