COVINGTON - It was a rough Saturday for three Newton County youth baseball teams in the Dixie Youth Baseball Major State Tournament at City Pond Park.
Newton National, Newton Southern and Newton American all lost first-round games in the 11- and 12-year-old tournament, forcing each to play in an elimination game this afternoon.
Albany American 8, Newton National 2
Michael Green hit a go-ahead, three-run home run in the fourth inning and allowed two earned runs in two innings of relief to pick up the victory for Albany, the defending state champions.
Trailing 2-1, Dennis Jenkins led off the fourth with a walk, Michael Whatley followed with a single and Green drove the first pitch he saw off losing pitcher Connor Hewell (2 IP, 4 ER) to put Albany ahead for good. Green added a two-run single in the fifth to make it an 8-2 game.
"They won state last year. That's a good ball team," Newton National coach Mike Bloodworth said.
Newton was in upset mode early, tying the score at 1-1 in the third on Levin Jordan's RBI single and grabbing a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Blake Shope's safety squeeze RBI.
But the Newton bats, responsible for 51 runs scored in five District Tournament games, went silent after the fourth as Albany closer Denzell Gowdy left the bases loaded in that frame, worked around two walks in the fifth and retired the side in order on four pitches in the sixth.
"They had good pitchers; our bats weren't hitting like they normally do," Bloodworth said. "I felt good with the lead, we just made a couple mistakes and they capitalized.""
Shope was effective in a starting role for Newton, allowing an unearned run in two innings. But Hewell and Chase Gilstrap (1 IP, 3 BB, 3 R, 0 ER) struggled to keep the slim lead.
"I feel confident in our pitching; we'll be back tomorrow," Bloodworth said. "Someone is going home (today), but it won't be us."
Wrens 13, Newton Southern 12 (8 innings)
In a wild game, Wrens had two huge comebacks to stun Newton in the first round.
Trailing 8-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Trey Crunkelton's RBI triple and Bailey Handy's run-scoring single off Austin Taylor made it an 8-6 game. Taylor and Grant Burroughs each walked in a runner to tie the game at 8-8.
Following a scoreless seventh, Newton grabbed the lead again in the eighth on Kyle Pugh's two-run double. RBIs from Wyatt Jackson and Michael Terry put the visitors up 12-8. Wrens wasn't finished.
Off Burroughs, Crunkelton scored on an error and Handy ripped a run-scoring double to cut the lead to 12-10. Three batters later, Mason Manaffey stroked a tying, two-run double that chased Burroughs. Reliever Hunter Edmundson loaded the bases with a single and fielder's choice, then struck out Kevin Fain for the second out. But Will Clark drew a walk, forcing in Manaffey for the final tally.
"The boys never quit; they fought hard all day. That's just the way baseball goes," said Newton Southern coach Steve Day. "(The) pitching was good and then it would get a little off. Tomorrow is a do or die, we'll come back (today) with the same attitude we had today."
Lee County 3, Newton American 0
Wil Aikins pitched a complete game five-hitter, striking out eight in Lee County's first-round victory.
Newton had several chances to cut into Lee County's lead but stranded runners in every inning, including four in scoring position.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.