COVINGTON, Ga. — Give the Newton County crown to Newton — if there were such a thing.
The Lady Rams showed no signs of let down while defeating in-county rival Alcovy 10-2 after five innings Tuesday night.
The big win came just three days removed from Newton (2-2) upsetting Class AAAA No. 7 Eastside in day two of the Peachtree Ridge tournament that was played Saturday at Social Circle.
“If there was a NewRock Tournament championship, I guess this would be it for us,” said Newton coach Virginia Tucker-Smith. “Like I’ve always told them, I’m always gonna be proud, especially when we can beat both of our in-county rivals. That’s something I don’t think has been done here for quite a while. We know they’re always going to get up for these kinds of games.”
The Lady Rams used a nine-run bottom-of-the-second inning to erase a 1-0 Alcovy lead and break the game open.
Allyriah Russell got things started when she led off the second frame by belting a single shot down the third base line. And all though she was picked off trying to steal second, the Newton rally began in earnest when Alcovy pitcher Lanie Knight walked a series of batters to load the bases, then pitched four straight balls to Newton freshman Katlyn Neely and beaning Chasidah Parker on the next at bat.
Both pitching miscues were responsible for Newton’s first two scores. And it began a snowball effect of misfortunes that the Lady Tigers just couldn’t shake off.
“We got behind, and our mental toughness was just not there today,” Alcovy coach Miranda Lamb said. “That one inning really got us down, and I talked to our seniors about how you can’t let that get you down, because when our seniors get down the underclassmen follow.”
After Parker was hit by the pitch, Lamb substituted Knight for freshman Lexie McDonald who was coming fresh off a seven-strikeout performance Monday night in Alcovy’s 14-5 rout of South Gwinnett — one of Newton’s Region 8-AAAAAAA foes.
Things were a bit tougher for McDonald against the Rams, though. Immediately upon entering the game, McDonald’s first pitch was wild and ushered in another Newton score. Then Mariah Williams connected on a two-RBI single that stretched the Rams lead to 6-1, still in the bottom of the second with no outs.
Sophomore Ty'Liyah Hardeman was next as she came up behind Williams to belt a scoring single. And after Newton made it 8-1 by scoring on another wild pitch, Russell got her second hit of the inning — another single — that plated Newton’s ninth run.
After that, McDonald would settle to pitch a pretty decent game the rest of the way, as Alcovy surrendered one last run in the bottom of the fifth to end it. But Newton did enough to where Williams came away encouraged at what her team accomplished, particularly at the plate.
“We did very well tonight,” Williams said. “We actually hit the ball. We played great defense, and we backed up all our talk. It was great beating both of our county rivals, and it just feels good to have these two wins under our belts.”
It’s quite the bounce back, considering Newton dropped its first two ballgames to North Gwinnett and Jefferson, 10-2 and 12-1 respectively. The last two performances have been buoyed by the play of Newton freshman Hayden Pearson, both at the plate and in the pitcher’s circle.
Pearson showed her bat strength in the bottom of the third when she smacked a shot that almost cleared the centerfield fence for a home run.
“It didn’t feel like it was out when it came off my bat, but it felt pretty far,” Pearson said. “I kind of stopped going around first. If I kept going, I could’ve gotten to third.”
Tucker-Smith couldn’t say enough about not only Pearson’s play, but the performance of all her youngsters.
“Hayden, and just our freshmen in general, Chas (Parker) at second and Katlyn in left, if it weren’t for those three coming up, for lack of a better term, I’d be hurting,” Tucker-Smith said. “I’m excited about them, and so excited I get Hayden for another three years.”
Pearson says she saw the difference in her team in these last two games, as opposed to the first two.
“We’ve definitely done better against our rivals, and because of that we’ve become a better team,” Pearson said.
Newton (2-2) will play one more non-region game Thursday when it travels to Stephenson (0-1) before opening region play at South Gwinnett. Tucker-Smith says that’s when the real season begins.
“The non-region stuff is always nice, but I think our veterans, our seniors know when it really counts,” she said. “We start region with South Gwinnett, but they know it’s another gear.”
Meanwhile, Alcovy (2-2) will open Region 3-AAAAAA play with a doubleheader at Lakeside Thursday. The Tigers started Tuesday night’s game fast with a Knight triple on the game’s first pitch, immediately followed by a sac bunt that scored the senior.
It was that kind of early effort — along with a pair of web gems from third baseman Lacey Thompson — that still has Lamb upbeat about her team’s prospects.
“We hit the ball fairly well tonight,” Lamb said. “Did we hit it straight to people? Yes. But if we can continue to hit the ball, it’ll help us out. And like I keep saying, just that mental toughness. There are small things that need adjusting. Nothing huge. We’re not falling apart. We’ll just hope to fix a few things and open up region play and shock a few people on Thursday."