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Rams split playoff doubleheader
Newton rallied in game one, McEachern takes game two
Newton's Joshua Prince knocks a double to left field in the third inning of the Rams' 7-6 game one victory over McEachern in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. - photo by Matt Smith

The Newton Rams varsity baseball team put on a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance Friday night in its opening round playoff series against McEachern, rallying for a comeback victory in game one before getting run ruled in game two.

Newton rallied for a 7-6 victory in the Class AAAAAA state tournament series opener, erasing a 6-3 deficit in the fourth inning against Region 4’s fourth seed, but it was the Indians that earned revenge in game two, downing Newton 14-4.

Newton coach Andre Byrd said the Rams have a chance to prove to themselves, their fans and the community that they belong with a win in game three Saturday.

“They’re still here; they’re still fighting,” Byrd said. “We could have easily been sent home tonight, but we still have a chance to prove ourselves. We’re going to go out and get it Saturday. Our guys are going to be ready.”

Game One: Newton 7, McEachern 6

Daniel Croom picked up the victory on the mound for the Rams in the series opener, but his outing started out in unimpressive fashion.

McEachern jumped up to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, using a two-run homer from catcher Brent Alford to take an early advantage.

Newton rallied in the second, trimming the Indians’ lead to 3-2, but McEachern’s bats struck again in the third, extending the Indians’ lead to 5-2.

After the Indians’ Trey Harris reached on a lead-off double to center field, Jared Walker knocked his teammate in with a stand-up double to left. A Newton throwing error allowed Harris to reach third and an Alford walk put runners at the corner.

Croom attempted to pick Alford off first but his throw to the base missed its mark, giving Harris an opportunity to score.

The run gave the Indians’ a three-run advantage, but Newton wasn’t ready to roll over just yet.

Newton’s comeback big began in the bottom of the inning as M.J. Boykin reached with a lead-off infield base knock and Allen Bowen reached on a single to center. Both runners advanced on McEachern’s poor throw from the outfield on Bowen’s base knock and Shawn Guckenberger made the Indians pay, scoring Boykin on a sac-fly to left field.

Joshua Prince scored Bowen during the Rams’ next at-bat on a RBI-single to left, cutting the Indians’ lead back to a single run with three innings to go.

It looked like the Rams’ comeback bid would fall short in the fourth as McEachern tacked on another run, but Newton responded in the bottom of the frame, slicing the Indians’ lead in half on a Boykin RBI-double over the Indians’ shortstop.

Newton tied the game in the fifth on a McEachern wild pitch and Croom kept the Indians from scoring in the sixth, despite a pair of base hits and a walk, giving the Rams an opportunity in the sixth to complete their comeback.

The Rams answered the bell in the bottom half of the inning, tallying a pair of hits in the frame.

Augustus Murray reached base after drawing a one-out walk and Mason Calloway, who finished with three base hits in the game, slapped a double into left field, giving the Rams a pair of base runners with one down. Boykin followed with another single to left and Murray beat the throw into home from the outfield, giving Newton its first lead of the game.

The Rams were unable to tack on another run, but Alex Johnson held on for the save in the seventh, striking out the Indians’ Stephen Wells with a 2-2 count to end the game.

“We were a little fight, but in game one they embodied our team attitude – fight,” Byrd said. “We might be down, but we’re going to keep fighting until we’re on top.”

Game Two: McEachern 14, Newton 4

McEachern gathered itself after the opening-game loss, battering the Rams’ pitching staff for 14 runs on 13 hits in game two.

Bowen started for the Rams on the mound, but struggled to find his groove, giving up 12 runs in his three innings of work.

The Indians held a 6-1 lead after two innings before finishing off the Rams with six runs in the third, batting around the order while Newton struggled to get a defensive stop.

McEachern’ scoring run began, as the Indians’ at-bats often did, with a lead-off walk, putting T.J. Clark on the bag with no outs. A Zach Smith double to center plated Clark, Jon Wells reached on a Newton fielding error and the Rams intentionally walked Trey Harris, loading the bases for the Indians’ Jared Walker.

Walker made Newton pay for the free pass to Harris, slapping a single up that middle that scored Smith and Jon Wells.

The base hit extended McEachern’s advantage to 9-4, and a Chase Sudduth infield single and a Bailey Hockman blooper to shallow left field pushed the Indians’ lead to 12-4.

Newton put a trio of runners on the base path in the top of the fourth, but a double play ball and a grounder ended any threat of a second Rams’ comeback.

McEachern tacked on two more runs in the fourth on a Jon Wells single and an Alford infield base hit.

Walker ended the Rams’ night with a pair of grounders and a fly out in the top of the fifth, securing the 10-run win for the Indians.

Newton was able to string together three runs in the third, including a two-run RBI double from Guckenberger, but all three of the Rams’ outs in the innings came on base running mistakes.

“Usually our pitching is a strength, but we didn’t have it tonight in game two,” Byrd said. “We got behind in the count a lot and they made us pay for it.

“We’ve seen what they have now and I believe our pitching is going to be better than theirs in game three,” he said. “We’re still going to look at that as our strength and hope it comes through for us.”

Newton returns to action Saturday in a series-deciding game three match-up against the Indians at home at 3 p.m.