COVINGTON, Ga. — Hayden Pearson has proven herself to be a reliable ace in the circle for the Newton High School softball team.
Over the past two seasons, the junior right-hander has made a strong case as the most consistent arm in Newton’s rotation. On Thursday, she showed just how unhittable she can be when she’s locked in.
Pearson took the ball against rival Alcovy High School and pitched a no-hitter, racking up 12 strikeouts and walking a pair of batters in an 11-0, six-inning victory for the Lady Rams.
Newton head coach Virginia Tucker-Smith continued to give her dominant righty high praise Thursday night while also lauding the work of the fielders behind her.
“Everybody plays with a lot more confidence when she’s out there pitching, when she’s on,” Tucker-Smith said. “I think our defense always reacts to her, and they always seem most confident and play the best defense behind her. I think it’s a whole mental aspect, and that’s a blessing in itself.”
The Lady Rams gave Pearson a lead to work with in the second inning. With one out and one on, junior Katelynn Anglin roped an RBI double to center field to drive in Newton’s first run of the day.
In the home half of the third inning, the Lady Rams doubled their lead on a sacrifice fly from senior Aulora Edwards.
But despite Newton’s dominant pitching and early run support, Alcovy managed to stick around. Anchored by a gutsy performance in the circle from junior Lexie McDonald, the Lady Tigers found themselves in a 2-0 game in the sixth inning.
One out away from taking the narrow deficit into the seventh, the Lady Tigers surrendered nine two-out runs to invoke the mercy rule. Despite the late implosion, Alcovy head coach Miranda Lamb was pleased with the way her young team held tough against a formidable Newton club.
“We were one pitch away from potentially tying up the game, and also one out away from going into that seventh inning at 2-0. It’s just the little things that we’ve got to correct, and we will,” Lamb said. “I think we played well. You live, you learn, you practice to live on another day. I’m not upset with their effort.”
Newton improved to 6-0 on the year with the victory. The club is off to its best start in program history, which brings with it both excitement and expectation. Tucker-Smith is now trying to find a way to feed into both.
“I’m really proud of the girls and I’m happy for them, but I don’t want them to get complacent,” she said. “I don’t want hem to just look at wins. I want them to want to have that same desire every time we come out here.”
Conversely, the Lady Tigers dropped to 0-2 to start the year. While a state playoff bid has already been secured thanks to region rivals Rockdale County and Heritage canceling their respective seasons, Alcovy won’t be satisfied with taking the easy way out.
“We have something to prove to our region this year,” head coach Miranda Lamb said. “I don’t want to just be in the state tournament because of placement; I want to be there because we earned it. I want the girls to want, too, so hopefully we’re get back out there and get back to work.”
Alcovy will return to the diamond next Tuesday and Thursday to open Region 3-AAAAAA play against Lakeside. Newton will resume Region 4-AAAAAAA play by going on the road to face Brookwood on Tuesday before playing host to Grayson on Thursday.