By Sarah Moomaw / The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star
The Newton County Cougars will have to keep waiting for their first Class 4A state title, dropping the deciding Game 3, 7-2, to Lewisburg at Trustmark Park on Saturday.
“You never want to lose that game,” Cougar head coach Wyatt Tullos said. “I’m not so sure we as much lost that game as the other team won it. I thought we played hard, we played well. They just hit the ball a little bit better than we did.”
The Patriots rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the third inning, sending nine batters to the plate and accounting for five earned runs off starter freshman Jacob Edwards.
“Wish we’d won it, but there’s a lot of to be proud of. I’m so proud of these guys for their fight all the time,” Tullos said. “We’re hurting. They’re men, we talk about being humbling victory, be gracious in defeat. I think they’ve been both in this series.”
The Cougars used a 10th inning walk-off in Thursday’s Game 2 to make it to the winner-takes-all match up in front of a packed bleacher crowd dressed in orange.
And in the first inning, they picked up right were they left off, getting an early lead.
Edwards put the Cougars ahead after earning first base off a single. Will Brand singled him home two batters later for the first run of the game.
After a pitchers duel in the second inning – the plate only saw the minimum six batters – Lewisburg broke the game wide open in the third.
Koby Busby popped out to right to open the inning, but four consecutive batters made their way to the base paths with three singles and a walk for a quick, 3-1, lead.
With Hunter Wilson on second, and Cody Cooper at first after a walk, Mason Givens cleared the bases with a double to go up 5-1. Colt Smith popped up to second basemen Tanner Elders to pause the damage.
“They had the big inning there in the third. That was hard to over come,” Tullos said.
The Cougars added a run in the top of the fourth when Dan Nelson scored on a sac-fly by Hunter Collins.
In the fifth, the Patriots’ charge would continue, adding two runs on four hits. Tanner Lloyd thought he cleared the wall for a home run, but just earned one RBI on a ground rule double.
Peyton Cain entered in relief to pitch through the final two outs of the inning. The first batter he faced, Cooper, continued the rout driving in Lloyd in for their final run of the game, 7-2.
After each rough outing, both Edwards and Cain returned to pitch 1-2-3 innings, keeping the Cougars in the game.
“We had chances,” Tullos said. “Kept battling we just never really could get a hit, a big hit, bang one out in the gap. Just never did happen, but they kept fighting.
Newton County had late chances to rally. In the sixth, they loaded the bases on with two outs only to leave them stranded.
Edwards lead off the seventh with a single, but Barten earned the save after retiring the next three batters, including a swinging strikeout of Brand for the last out.
“We played out guts out, just came up a little bit short,” Tullos said. “They kept competing … I’m just proud of our guys.”