COVINGTON — It took Jabari Simmons about 200 feet to realize what had just happened.
Somewhere between second and third base, with his teammates urging him to savor the moment, Simmons' hustle slowed to a home run trot.
Simmons didn't see his first varsity home run land, but it did — just over the left field fence, and it gave Rockdale County a 4-3 lead Thursday during the Bulldogs' 13-3 win at Newton High School.
"I actually didn't realize until I was between second and third," Simmons said. "But at that point I was still dumbfounded, because I did not expect that at all."
Simmons' home run broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the fifth inning before Rockdale scored nine unanswered runs in the sixth to force the 10-run mercy rule.
Simmons was part of that rally, too, when he was hit by a pitch and came around to score on a wild pitch.
"In my opinion, he's the best nine-hole hitter in the state," Rockdale head coach Kevin Dawkins said. "I think he actually leads our team in batting average right now. I tell my guys that being a nine-hole hitter is not a knock on anybody. If anything, it should be more of an honor because I trust you to be a second leadoff guy."
Dawkins moved his junior outfielder to center field before the season, a spot he calls Simmons' natural position.
"I know in the past he hasn't played as much, and now he's my everyday center fielder," Dawkins said. "Hard work pays off. He's the prime example of perseverance and hanging in there and not giving up and what not. It's paying off for him and I'm proud to see that."
Rockdale pitcher Jaylon Teague tossed a complete game, giving up three runs while striking out five and walking four through six innings to help the Bulldogs clinch the three-game series.
Teague drove in the first run of the game when his sacrifice fly plated Jordan Rome in the top of the first inning.
Rome reached base and scored all four times for the Bulldogs, singling three times and getting hit by a pitch once.
Corbin Shaw also had multiple hits, finishing 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
"For us to come out and take two of three from Newton, especially after a loss last night at home, that was huge; not only in terms of region standings, but in terms of their confidence level," Dawkins said. "We're going to play a really good Archer team next week, so having that confidence going into that series is huge for us."
Newton got five solid innings from starting pitcher Bailey Barbus before he was pulled in the top of the sixth.
Barbus had given up just three runs — two earned — before exiting with a pair of runners on base in the sixth.
Blake Peacock entered for the Rams and immediately surrendered back-to-back singles before settling down to strike out Bryce King.
Peacock gave up two more hits and plunked a pair of batters before Newton coach James Jackson called on Justin Brown to finish the frame.
"Bailey (Barbus) did an awesome job," Newton coach James Jackson said. "They made a great adjustment and conformed to our pitching style. We had a gameplan the whole series with them, had a scouting report on them, and we pitched to them the way we were supposed to. In the (fourth) inning, they came out and did what they were supposed to."
Newton's two-run fourth was its most productive inning, when J.D. Coltharp's RBI single brought home Barbus and Khalil Wilcox scored on Marquez Smith's sacrifice fly.
Newton (2-9, 1-2 Region 8-AAAAAAA) threatened in the fifth inning, but a one-out fielder's choice cut down Garrett Mitchell at the plate and Brodie Landreau struck out to end the inning.
"We're very young," Jackson said. "I'm too deep in all of my infield, and actually my outfield is very deep. So depth is not an issue; it's just we're young. So we're in a teaching phase. This year's going to be very much a teaching phase because we're learning the game."
Rockdale (4-6, 2-1 Region 8-AAAAAAA) topped Newton on Tuesday in the first game of the series, 8-2, then dropped Wednesday's game 7-0.
"In terms of skill level we're a really good team. We just need to execute, and that's it," Simmons said. "I'm sure we can make it far in the region, and even in the playoffs, if we just execute and stay together. That's it."
The Bulldogs are now 11-4 in their last 15 meetings against the Rams dating back to 2015.