COVINGTON -- With a chance to get out of the second inning trailing by three runs, Alcovy starting pitcher Mackenzie Rodgers was tasked with facing Newton freshman sensation Kyla Stroud with the bases loaded.
After grounding into a force play in her first at-bat, Stroud didn’t falter a second time. Instead, the freshman lined a base hit to left to extend the Newton lead to 6-1. In her third at-bat of the night, Stroud tripled to left and later scored on an error in left and an interference call at third.
An 8-run second inning for the Rams was more than enough for sophomore pitcher Hayden Pearson to secure her third win of the season as she went the distance, tossing five innings of two-run ball to win 11-2.
While the Tigers managed to barrel several balls and tally eight hits off of Pearson, who has already tossed 16 ⅔ innings this season, the young sophomore was able to rely on a sturdy defense to get her out of trouble when needed.
“With Hayden, she’s just so nonchalant about everything,” Newton head coach Virginia Tucker-Smith said with a smile on her face. “She has those pitches and we just need to focus more and more on locating those pitches. We’ll be even better as soon as she can locate all six of them consistently. She’ll be a top-notch pitcher.”
The Rams grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to an Alcovy error that scored Ty’Liyah Hardeman from third. The Tigers answered back with a run of their own in the bottom half, thanks to back-to-back doubles from Gwyn Lee and Laci Thompson to start the inning.
Gwyn lined an 0-2 pitch into the left-center field gap before Thompson brought her hope with a line-drive double to left on the first pitch.
Lee followed up her run scored at the plate with a web gem at shortstop in the top of the second to rob Aulora Edwards of a base hit. Lee handled a hard hit grounder before gunning her out from her knees.
Chasidah Parker gave the Rams a 2-1 lead moments later after driving home Madison McDaniel, who followed Edwards’ at-bat with a triple. Parker was thrown out at first for the second out of the inning, but the Rams’ offense was far from finished.
The Rams brought eight more batters to the plate in the second inning and scored seven more times. D’Myia Jackson scored on an error before Pearson brought home Mariah Williams on a single to center, extending the lead to 4-1.
Following Stroud’s 2-RBI single, three more runs came around to score on an Edwards double. A third Alcovy error gave Alcovy’s Rodgers six earned runs, but the senior walked off the field trailing 9-1.
A lead-off triple from Jada Brown to start the bottom of the second led to the Tigers’ second run of the night after a second triple from Ezareona Sheppard allowed her to score.
With one out, Alexis Hernandez singled to advance Sheppard to third, but the inning ended in disappointment for the Tigers after a flyout from Lee resulted in the Rams doubling up Sheppard at second, who wandered too far off of the bag.
A bases-loaded walk in the third with Lexie McDonald in to pitch for the Tigers gave the Rams their 10th run of the night and later scored their 11th in the fourth on Stroud’s triple.
The Rams’ 3-0 start to the season is their best in more than a decade, leaving Tucker-Smith very pleased with their performances.
“It’s always nice to get wins against quality teams,” Tucker-Smith said. “It’s one thing to go out and be 3-0 playing teams that picked up players off the street to play. Alcovy is a quality program at 3-1 before tonight. Morgan County always has a solid program and Tift County is nothing to blink at. It’s much nicer to know that we’re getting the wins against good teams.”
In the Rams’ three games to start the season, 36 base hits have been recorded. On Tuesday, the Rams tallied 11 hits with two coming on singles from pinch hitters Aaliyah Mitchell and Tristen Ellis.
“I was excited to see my regular 1-9, but also my pinch hitters,” Tucker-Smith said. “Both of those girls had base hits, too. It’s great to see that. Hopefully all of the time that we’re spending in the cages and soft tossing is paying off. They all do a lot of hitting lessons, too. Hopefully they see that it’s paying off and stick with it. I’m just proud of them all the way around hitting wise.”
For Miranda Lamb, the second-year Alcovy head coach let her frustrations be known at the conclusion of Tuesday’s loss. The Tigers fall to 3-2 on the season with both losses coming to in-county programs in Eastside and Newton.
“We’re a good team. We just can’t prove it to anybody. Especially at home,” Lamb said. “Going into region play on Thursday, hopefully we can come out and play well. I gave them the same speech that I gave them last Tuesday against Eastside. Our talent is there. We were hitting the ball tonight and just made bonehead mistakes. Our heads are not in the game and it’s showing. Hopefully we’ll bounce back.”