Newton’s Kenneth Glover delivers a pitch Tuesday against Rockdale. Staff photo by Kurt Aschermann Jr.
The Rockdale baseball team had just enough to hold off Newton Tuesday.
Will Hardy tossed 6 1/3 innings of four-hit ball and Jeff Sweat left the potential tying and go-ahead runs stranded in the top of the seventh inning in the Bulldogs’ 3-2 victory in the Region 2-AAAAAA opener for both schools.
Hardy didn’t surrender a hit through 5 1/3 innings before allowing No. 9 hitter Daniel Croom to reach base on an infield single with one out in the sixth. That got the visiting Rams going as Croom stole second and M.J. Boykin followed with a single. Hardy couldn’t field a come backer off the bat of Mason Callaway, and though Callaway was thrown out at first by shortstop Malachi Eskin, Croom scored to get Newton to within 3-1.
Hardy looked to be out of the inning when Allen Bowen hit a ground ball to third, but Zack Walker couldn’t field the ball cleanly and Boykin scored to make it 3-2.
Newton had two on in the seventh - Joshua Prince reached on an infield single and Alex Johnson walked to chase Hardy from the game. Facing Sweat, Croom hit what looked destined to be the game-tying single, but Tyler Page made a fine play to his right and just beat Croom to the bag for the second out. Sweat struck out Boykin to end the game.
Kenneth Glover matched Hardy for three innings, but Rockdale broke through in the fourth. Eskin hit a ball that left fielder Callaway misplayed into a triple, and two batters later, Page polished off a good at bat with an opposite field single to chase home Eskin with the first run of the game.
In the fifth, Glover walked Davis Foster and a wild pitch pushed the Rockdale catcher up to second with one out. Glover walked Hardy with two outs and Eskin followed with a two-run double into the left field corner and the Bulldogs led 3-0.
“Malachi, he’s been coming through big for us throughout the season so far,” said Rockdale coach Justin Arrington.
Hardy handcuffed Newton through the first five innings, getting 14 of the 15 outs on the infield or by strikeout. Shawn Guckenberger reached base on Eskin’s error to open the second, stole second and moved to third on a groundout, but Hardy worked out of trouble. The Rams didn’t have another base runner until Croom in the sixth.
“He stepped up big time for us,” Arrington said of Hardy. “We got to the point where if we put him out there he’s going to put us in ballgames. He throw strikes and makes the defense work. That’s kind of what we’ve been trying to stress with our pitchers, put the ball over the plate and let our defense work. It helps a lot.”
Glover went the distance for the Rams, allowing five hits in a 107-pitch effort.
Rockdale continues region play when it travels to Luella Friday at 5:30 p.m.