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Smith's homer record highlights stellar year for Newton softball

COVINGTON - Newton's softball team not only had a banner year, senior catcher Morgan Smith ended her prep career by shattering the school record for home runs.

Individually, Smith crushed the previous school record of home runs in one season with 11 long balls to her credit.

"It more than doubles the old school record. Her bat will be missed. A couple of games she almost went for the cycle," Newton head coach Jason LaChappelle said. "Her leadership offensively and defensively; her ability behind the dish; we're really going to miss. As of right now, I don't see anybody coming up to fill those shoes."

As a team, the Lady Rams were 24-12 for the season and advanced further in the Class AAAAA South Sectionals than any other team in the school's history.

They won the first game over Newnan 1-0 before falling 14-1 to Lowndes. They eliminated Camden County in a 9-5 contest before being knocked out 2-1 by Region 2-AAAAA rival Luella.

"We ended up playing Luella several times this year, and the girls wanted to beat Luella. It just didn't happen," LaChappelle said.

The Lady Rams were 0-4 against Luella with two losses coming in the region tournament.

Helping Newton make strides this season was freshman pitcher Holly Springer. In her first year on the mound, Springer had a 2.14 ERA and 38 strikeouts.

"Holly came out and surprised me, surprised all of us," LaChappelle said. "She wasn't easily rattled and she grew as the season went on. She got better at what she did. We'll see more of Holly next season than we did this season. She's the future of Newton pitching,"

Haleigh Higgins and Markea Sheppard also helped on the mound.

Offensively, Smith led all hitters with a .498 average. She was followed by second baseman Kierstie Moon (.491), first baseman Ashley Anthony (.433), center fielder Shay Marks (.418) and shortstop Jasmine White (.387).

While LaChappelle had several hot hitters, he also had a lot of hitters that were in slumps.

"We struggled with hitting all season," he said. "We had a couple of girls that were consistent all year. But it's the inconsistencies that kill a team. You can't win out if you have half your team in a slump. When somebody is always in a slump, it's hard to be productive. Consistency at the bat is the one thing that didn't improve to my liking."

Although Newton's bats did not perform the way LaChappelle would have liked, it was still an overall successful season.

"Wins-losses-wise, it was a great season," he said. "Our losses were legitimate losses. It's not like we laid down and gave up. It's like we were clearly beat, just outmatched by the other teams.

"We wanted to better this year than we did last year and we did. We went farther in post season than Newton High has ever gone. We went 2-2 in the state sectionals. Last year we were 1-2 and the year before that we were 0-2. That was probably our No. 1 goal. I'd like to see us get better every year. That means in a few years we'll make it to the Elite Eight."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.