COVINGTON - The curtain fell on the Newton County National bid to play for the Dixie Youth World Series after losing to Troup County 10-5 on Tuesday.
"We battled, we played a very good ball team. I think we played the team that's going to win state," Newton County coach Mike Bloodworth said. "We had to play a perfect game and we played a good game. The boys fought, they never gave up. I was very, very proud of them."
The National team took the early lead when Troup County elected to let Austin Richardson score in exchange for an out on an A.J. Howard grounder.
But an error allowed the run to score and put Howard on the base. Alex Parish hit a sacrifice grounder that let Hunter Phillips give Newton County a 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning.
Troup County responded by scoring three runs in the first inning and three in the second to take a 6-2 lead after two innings.
Newton County had a chance to get back into the game when a Richardson single plated Trevor Simmons leaving bases loaded with no outs. But Troup County pitcher Cody Mimbs settled down, striking out the next three batters.
"That was the turning point in the game, that hurt. I don't want to blame nobody, but you teach the kids to search strike zones. When it's below that they know to lay off, but they were called strikes. He called it both ways," Bloodworth said.
Defining the strike zone was a problem for the Newton team as they struck out 11 times, seven times looking.
While Newton County had trouble reaching home plate, Troup County did not have the same trouble, adding a run in the third and fourth inning and two in the fifth to take a 10-3 lead.
With their backs against the wall, the National team came out swinging, literally.
"I told each one of them (in the final inning), you see that stop sign, that's your target. We always tell them not to swing for the fence, but I told them to swing for the stop sign," Bloodworth said. "I should've done that in the third inning."
Richardson hit a line drive to bring Lane Moorhead home from second base before a Phillips double plated Richardson.
But Troup County was able to hold off the Newton charge for the win.
Richardson and Phillips paced the team offensively with two hits each followed by Moorhead and Levi Jordan who had one hit apiece.
"When you coach kids like this you get attached to them. I told the parents and the boys that when they're on the ball field they belong to me," Bloodworth said. "When it's time to feed you you're going back to your parents.
"We had a great turnout of fans. Our first game was so full there was nowhere to sit. We stayed to back them (two other Newton County teams) up and they stayed to back us up. That says a lot."
Troup County's Chase Freeman led his team, going 3-for-3 including a home run and a double.
Also going yard and pacing the team with four RBIs was Perry Keith.
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.