Newton run-rules Panthers

COVINGTON -- Newton's baseball team kept its playoff dreams alive with a 10-0, six-inning win on Friday at Riverside Park.

The Rams (11-11 overall, 5-6 in Region 2-AAAAA) wasted little time in putting runs on the board, scoring twice in the home half of the first inning.

They had their chances in the next two innings to add on to their tally. Instead, they left four runners stranded. They did not pick it up again until the fourth inning when they crossed the plate four times.

After leaving a runner stranded on third base to end the fifth inning, Newton came back and ended the game with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Even though the Rams got the shutout, it did not appear as if that would be the outcome -- especially in the fourth inning.

Newton pitcher Ryan McCraine was perfect through three innings. That all changed when an error gave the Panthers their first runner of the game followed by two hits to load the bases with no outs. But McCraine, who did not know he was going to be the starting pitcher until game time, buckled down and struck out the next two batters allowing a routine force out to end the threat.

"It was a good job by Ryan McCraine to come in on short notice and step up," Newton head coach Vincent Byams said. "He got the start and worked fast. He had a lot of one-pitch, two-pitch outs and made an excellent job of it. He forced a lot of ground balls and only gave up two hits."

McCraine got the win, going all six innings while fanning eight batters, walking one and giving up two hits.

The Rams also did what they needed offensively, getting a base hit in each inning. As a team, Newton had 11 hits. They were also patient at the plate as they were walked eight times.

Newton's Zack Sullivan paced everyone, getting three hits with Jeremy Laguins, Daniel Croom, Allen Bowen -- who had the only-extra base hit with a double -- and Sherman Graves getting two hits each.

After allowing Newnan to get a 6-5 come-from-behind win, the Rams find them themselves in a must-win situation for their region games if they hope to make it to the Class AAAAA playoffs.

Even though their remaining games are at home, the Rams still have a hard task ahead of them starting with East Coweta, which is 9-2 in the region at current No. 2 seed followed by Westlake (6-5, No. 4 seed) and Class AAAAA PrepCountry.com/GACA coaches poll No. 5 ranked and region No. 1 seed Luella.

"We have a home stretch and couldn't ask of a better way to finish it up," Byams said. "Our backs are against the wall but we're at home so we'll be fired up ready to play. Our goal is to get to the state playoffs and we have to fight for it."