COVINGTON, Ga. - Led by a strong pitching performance, The Newton Rams (8-3, 3-1) earned a 4-0 victory over the Archer Tigers (8-4, 3-1) which marks the school's first win in softball over the Tigers.
Sophomore pitcher Hayden Pearson was at her best shutting out the Tigers and holding them to only six hits. Even more impressive is the fact that Pearson did not surrender a single walk in this crucial matchup.
This standout performance had head coach Virginia Tucker-Smith very pleased but not surprised that her young pitcher was able to dominate the opposition. Her confidence was heightened before the game when her catcher, Kaitlyn Neely, told her that all of Pearson's pitches were working well.
"I ask Hayden every game beforehand 'What's working? What's not? What's moving and locating where it's supposed to go,' and she said 'Everything,'" Tucker-Smith said. "So I was confident since my catcher was telling me 'Yeah, they are definitely working.'"
Pearson also had a productive night at the plate as the Rams number-two hitter in their lineup. She finished her night 1-for-2 while also scoring a run.
The Rams did an excellent job of manufacturing runs and senior center fielder Mariah Williams led the charge in this category. She got on base in all three of her at-bats earning two walks and one hit-by-pitch. She converted two of those on-base opportunities into runs with her elite base-stealing ability.
Williams finished with three stolen bases on the night and could be described as a walking double as every time she reached base; she would get into scoring position by stealing second.
Coach Tucker-Smith knows she will miss Williams’ speed, but while she has it in her arsenal; she truly values it on her team.
"Mariah, I'm going to miss her speed more than anything. I mean, what do you do with that," she said. "Speed is something that other teams can't do anything with, if you can get on base, they can't do anything with you."
Catcher Kaitlyn Neely was also crucial for the Rams’ success with two RBIs of her own, while shortstop Ty'Liyah Hardeman and first baseman Madison McDaniel also had one RBI each.
The Rams middle infield, which includes second baseman Aulora Edwards and Hardeman, also had a pair of critical diving stops that kept the Tigers off the basepaths in the late stages of the game.
A tight game like this displays the importance of sound fundamentals, and Smith believes a game like this just further proves that sentiment.
This vital win will place the Rams in a better position in the region standings as they are now in a tie with the Tigers for second place. Smith is proud of her team and believes they are most-deserving of this huge win.
"This is a big deal for them, especially my upperclassmen," Tucker-Smith said. "Archer's always been right behind Grayson. It's always the two untouchables that we can't ever seem to get over the hump, so this just puts a little more confidence in heads moving forward."
The Rams will continue region play in their next game as they take on the Rockdale High School Bulldogs (2-8, 1-3) at home on Sept. 5.