COVINGTON -- Katelynn Anglin entered Tuesday with zero career starts in the circle at the varsity level.
With Newton head coach Virginia Tucker-Smith looking to rest ace Hayden Pearson, who had started in each of the Rams’ first six games to start the season, she handed the ball to Anglin, who only recently told her head coach that she could toss some innings if need be.
“She didn’t tell me until about three games into the season,” Tucker-Smith said. “She said, ‘coach, I’ve been pitching a little bit.’ It’s kind of been a blessing. She’s just been able to step in and take some of the weight off of Hayden. And that’s what she said. She said she could pitch some if it would help lessen her load. I appreciate that.”
Thrust into the starting role Tuesday in the Rams’ opening game of Region 8-AAAAAAA play against South Gwinnett, Anglin nearly walked her first batter of the game. Facing a 3-2 count, Aglin struck her out looking.
From that point on, the right-hander cruised through the Comets lineup, allowing just one hit in three innings. Anglin was also responsible for six of the Rams’ nine outs including three strikeouts.
At the plate, the Rams (5-2, 1-0) struck for nine first-inning runs and went on to win the game 15-0 on an Anglin 2-RBI double to left in the bottom of the third inning.
The Rams were led by Kaitlyn Neely’s perfect evening at the plate. The catcher ripped off three doubles in her three at-bats and drove in a pair of runs.
“I was talking to her dad over the summer and he was telling me that she had started to hit the ball a lot better,” Tucker-Smith said. “She’s been knocking the crap out of the ball. From the first night that we played Morgan County and Tift, she was doing the same thing. She’s really seeing the ball really well right now.”
Freshman Kyla Stroud ripped two base hits on the evening, including an RBI double to right while D’Myia Jackson drove in a pair of runs with a double.
Senior Mariah Williams stole three bases and scored two runs in the victory while also extending her hitting streak to seven games to begin the season.
The Rams batted around in their nine-run first inning, bringing a total of 12 batters to the plate. 10 batters reached base safely before the first out of the inning was recorded.
The rams scored two runs in the second and their final four runs in the third to run-rule the Comets.
“Hopefully they can carry this momentum into Thursday,” Tucker-Smith said. “It’s a whole different scenario come Thursday. A whole different speed, whole different movement. We’ll see how ready we can get them and how mentally prepared they are come Thursday.”
The Rams’ first true test of the 2019 season will come Thursday evening when they travel to Grayson. In six games against Grayson since the 2016 region realignment, Newton has never beaten them.
Last season, the Rams lost 10-3 and 9-1 in their two region matchups against Grayson.
To come away with a victory, Tucker-Smith said they will have to adjust better at the plate, something she said they have struggled with in the past.
“Sometimes we take a little too long to adjust to the pitcher,” Tucker-Smith said. “Too many times through the lineup. I feel like if we can adjust a little quicker, we can play with anybody. It’s just really hard to go from games like this to somebody that has a lot of movement.”
From a defensive standpoint, Tucker-Smith’s confidence is there. The game will come down to their production at the plate, something the veteran head coach is hoping to see.
“We’re going to play solid defense, we always have,” Tucker-Smith said. “It’s really just going to be who can adjust the quickest. The quicker the can, the better off we’ll be. Hopefully we’ll be able to give (Grayson) a game. We were able to give them a full seven innings the first time that we played them last season, so I’m hoping that we can give them some competition.”