The Newton High School varsity baseball team made a clean sweep of Region 2-AAAAAA rival Alcoy on Senior Night Tuesday, defeating the Tigers 6-1 at home.
The win moves the Rams to 8-2 in region play, while the Tigers fall to 3-4 in the league.
“It feels great,” Rams coach Andre Byrd said. “It’s actually pretty surreal.”
The Rams sent Shawn Guckenberger to the mound as their starter and he came out throwing with great velocity. Guckenberger walked his first batter, but quickly rebounded, striking out his next batter, forcing a ground ball out and striking out his next batter to end the first half of the inning.
Alcovy’s Dalton Reagin earned the start for the Tigers, looking just as strong as Guckenberger in the early innings. Reagin struck out his first batter, but an error by the Tigers on the throw to first base put M.J. Boykin on second base for the Rams.
Reagan took down his next batter, but an early sacrifice opportunity allowed Boykin to take third. With a man in scoring position, Reagin forced Allen Bowen to fly out on a foul ball, but Boykin scored on the sacrifice opportunity, giving Bowen an RBI and the Rams a 1-0 lead.
Guckenberger came into the second inning looking better than he did in the first inning. He took down all three batters he faced and ended the top of the inning by forcing a strikeout on his final batter. Reagan came out in the second frame looking great as well, striking out his first two batters before forcing a grounder that ended the inning.
Both teams were held scoreless in the third, but Alcovy’s bats came to life in the fourth inning.
Guckenberger opened the inning on a pair of groundouts, but Alcovy’s offense found just enough rhythm to tie the game. Guckenberger walked his next batter and the Tigers’ Quinton Grizzard connected with the ball for the first hit of the game by either side on Alcovy’s next at-bat, bringing the runner home on a RBI-triple that tied the game.
Nathan Purcell came into the game in relief of Reagin in the bottom of the fourth, taking down all three Newton batters.
Guckenberger got back to form for Newton in the fifth, marching through all three Alcovy hitters and Purcell looked to equal what he accomplished for the Tigers in the previous inning, but the Rams were thinking otherwise.
Alex Johnson was hit by a pitch, giving the Rams a base runner and Josh Prince advanced to first base on an error by Alcovy, giving Newton two base runners.
Tristan McInerny delivered a sacrifice opportunity for the Rams and pinch runner Philip Rowe scored the go-ahead run for the Rams, but Newton wasn’t done yet. Grant Burroughs connected on the Rams’ first hit of the game on a bunt and Mason Calloway advanced to first base on another Tigers’ error.
Boykin knocked down the Rams’ first base hit to leave the infield, scoring a pair of runs on the base knock. Newton added another run on another sacrifice opportunity from Bowen, plating the Rams fourth run of the inning.
With a 5-1 lead, Guckenberger remained on the mound and continued his early form. He took down his first batter on a groundout, his next on a strikeout, but surrendered a double to Reagin. However, Guckenberger quickly rebounded, taking down the Tigers’ final batter of the frame without allowing Reagin to score.
The Rams plated another run in the bottom of the sixth, increasing their lead to 6-1 on an RBI-single from Calloway.
The Rams finally relieved Guckenberger by sending Levi Langford to the mound in the seventh inning.
“I wanted to send him [Guckenberger] out there for the seventh,” Byrd said, “but, I decided not to get greedy because we have a lot of arms out here.”
Langford surrendered just a single to Purcell in relief, sealing the 6-1 victory.
Purcell was saddled with the loss for Alcovy, while Guckenberger earned the win for the Rams.
With playoff positions in the league still up for grabs, the Rams have clinched a playoff berth and the Tigers could still in a spot in the postseason if things fall their way.
“It feels great, but I hope Alcovy makes it in to because that’s a great team over there,” Byrd said.