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PREP SOFTBALL: Lady Rams rolling into state playoffs
No. 4 Newton opens best-of-three series at No. 1 Lowndes on Tuesday
Newton SB
Newton will open up the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs with a best-of-three series against top-seeded Lowndes this week. - Mason Wittner | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton is back in the postseason.

The Lady Rams earned the No. 4 seed from Region 4, pairing them with top-seeded Lowndes from Region 1 in the opening round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs. They traveled down to Valdosta on Monday and held practice at 7 p.m. in preparation for the start of the best-of-three series on Tuesday.

Newton head coach Virginia Tucker-Smith was optimistic about her club during a phone interview Monday night. Despite rolling into a series with the Vikettes as the underdog on paper, she believes Newton is a better team than its seeding indicates.

And she’s ready to put everyone on notice.

“I’m confident in these girls. If they do everything they’re capable of doing, I feel like we’re going to surprise some people down in Valdosta,” Tucker-Smith said.

Newton has already compiled one of its most successful seasons in recent memory. The girls knocked off a pair of defending state champions in Banks County and Locust Grove, defeated rival Eastside for the second time since 2014 and took Mountain View — the club that promptly swept them out of the first round in 2019 — into extra innings.

They went 6-6 in Region 4, the same mark as No. 2 Brookwood and No. 3 Parkview. The postseason seeding went through a series tiebreakers before eventually coming down to run differential, which gave the Lady Broncos and Lady Panthers the edge.

But the Lady Rams’ record shouldn’t be taken at face value. Simply surviving the gauntlet of playing in one of the most difficult regions in the state — a region that also includes No. 1 Grayson (23-5, 12-0) — is a victory in itself.

Newton is confident that will play to its advantage in the state playoffs.

“Nobody realizes how tough of a region this is. That doesn’t do anything but make us even more competitive,” Tucker-Smith said. “We’ve already got some girls who are go-getters and who go after it 100% anyway, but this just makes us understand that there’s literally no one we can’t play with when everything is clicking.”

As she’s done all season, Tucker-Smith will lean on junior Hayden Pearson and freshman Elle Standard to lead her club in the circle. The duo has been an effective 1-2 punch that has kept opposing lineups off balance all fall.

“Hayden’s a bit faster, and when you throw Elle in on the back end of a game, she’s slower, but she’s got a lot more movement and a great changeup. It completely throws teams off,” she said. “They’ve both played some really key roles for us this year as far as pitching goes. I’m hoping we can get full games from both of them, and if not, we can mix it up.”

Lowndes enters the postseason after posting a 22-7 record in the regular season. The club went 12-3 in a four-team region that featured Colquitt County (17-10, 10-5), Tift County (14-16, 5-10) and Camden County (6-15, 3-12). 

The Vikettes have a pair of power hitters, but averaged 5.14 runs per game in large part because of their small ball approach. Once runners get on base, they excel in employing station-to-station softball by way of stealing bases, laying down bunts and executing sacrifice flies.

“One thing I know from past experience is that they’ve always got a well-coached team, and one that knows how to move runners around,” Tucker-Smith said. “They’re going to be a solid club, for sure. We’ve just got to be a bit more solid this week.”

First pitch for Game 1 is slated for 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, followed by a 7 p.m. ET start for Game 2. An if-necessary Game 3 is scheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. Check back at for coverage from the series.