Newton pitcher Daniel Croom threw four innings of no-hit baseball, and hit two RBI triples in the Rams’ nine-run first inning, as Newton demolished the Morrow Mustangs 16-0 in four innings and clinched the Region 2-AAAAAA crown Friday at Morrow High School.
With the win, the Rams improved to 14-9 on the season, 9-3 in the region. Morrow fell to 3-11, 1-7 in region play.
“He (Croom) had a heck of a day,” first-year Rams coach Andre Byrd said of his senior player. “For this to be his senior year, and his last regular-season game, that’s something he can hold onto forever.”
Croom’s final stat line for the game - 2-for-2 at the plate, two triples, two walks, four runs scored, 16 total bases and a four-inning no-hitter.
Morrow was its own worst enemy in the first inning as it committed six errors, while pitcher Malik Pierre gave up five hits, walked two and threw two wild pitches.
Newton sent 13 batters to the plate in the first inning, and every starter except one scored at least one run.
Boykin walked to start the game before Croom tripled and drove in Boykin. Croom scored on Pierre’s first wild pitch and right fielder Allen Bowen walked on four straight pitches, stole second and advanced to third on Mustang catcher Karlton Clark’s throwing error.
Third baseman Shawn Guckenberger grounded out to first, but Bowen scored on the play, giving the Rams a 3-0 lead with one out.
Newton first baseman Joshua Prince singled after the grounder and catcher Alex Johnson reached when Mustang left fielder Denard Miller dropped Johnson’s fly ball. Prince and Johnson advanced to third and second, respectively, on Morrow first baseman Akeem Newton’s throwing error, putting two runners in scoring position for Tristan McInerny.
McInerny grounded to out, but drove in Prince, adding another run to Newton’s total.
Second baseman Augustus Murray singled and drove in Johnson, making the score 5-0.
With Murray on, the second baseman stole second and designated hitter Mason Callaway reached on a Pierre throwing error, allowing Murray
to advance third on the error.
Back at the top of the line-up, Boykin reached on an error that also allowed Murray to score.
Croom followed with his second triple of the inning, driving in Callaway and Boykin.
During the Rams’ next at-bat, Bowen reached on shortstop Josh Lowery’s error, which also allowed Croom to score.
Guckenberger ended Morrow’s misery as he flied out to end the inning, but the damage had been done. Newton led 9-0 and was well on its way to a win in its final region contest.
Facing reliever Hanif Freeman, Newton added another run in the top of the second as Prince hit his second single and stole second. Johnson struck out, but McInerny singled, driving in Prince.
Meanwhile, Croom faced one batter over the minimum through two innings while striking out four. Mustang second baseman Jonathan McKnight reached first in the first inning on dropped third strike by Newton’s Johnson, but, Croom struck out Freeman to end the inning.
Newton scored four more runs in the top of the third inning.
Boykin reached on a throwing error by third baseman Joshua Dixon, but was thrown out trying to steal second. Croom walked, and Bowen singled to put runners at first and second, and a Guckenberger single drove in Croom and Bowen.
Guckenberger advanced to third on two Mustang throwing errors and Prince joined him on the base path with a walk.
Freeman balked, scoring Guckenberger while moving Prince to second.
Prince moved to third on a passed ball and Johnson was hit by a pitch, putting runners at the corners for McInerny. McInerny drove in Prince on a fielder’s choice, ending the inning with the Rams leading 14-0.
Croom cruised through the Mustang half of the third inning, striking out two while getting leadoff hitter A.J. Nettles to fly out to right field.
Newton completed the scoring in its half of the fourth inning.
After Callaway grounded out, Boykin, who reached base four times and scored three runs, walked and stole second. Croom walked, and Bowen (2-for-2 with a walk, RBI and two runs scored) followed with a double, driving drive in Boykin and Croom for the 16-0 final.
The game was called after Croom retired the Mustangs in the fourth inning.
Byrd was also happy that Newton’s first-round playoff game is at home.
“The good thing about it is we don’t have to go anywhere,” he said. “We’ll host Harrison, Hillgrove or McEachern next Friday.”