Meridian Star

Sports

May 9, 2014

Newton County to face Wildcats in best-of-three series

DECATUR — The Newton County High School baseball team notched a 5-4 win in Game 3 of last week’s playoff matchup against Pass Christian High School to claim a 2-1 series win over the Pirates and punched a ticket to the second round of the Class 4A MHSAA playoffs against Columbia High School.

“We made some big plays and made some big pitches and had a few clutch hits,” Newton County coach Wyatt Tullos said. “And that’s what you have to do this time of year, you have to come through in big spots, and that’s what we were able to do last week. It was a great series.”

After falling just short of a state championship in 2013, dropping a best-of-three game series to Lewisburg High School, 2-1, in the finals, Tullos is hopeful that experience will pay dividends for his squad.

“We’re decently familiar with the playoffs,” Tullos said. “We’ve been in it, but every team is a new team. As a program, we’ve been fortunate to be in the playoffs the past few season, so hopefully that experience will help us deal with what we’re going to face. But every year it is different, and that’s what makes it fun. That’s what keeps old guys like me young.”

Newton County (20-14 and District 5-4A champions) is led by a strong senior core, headlined by Jacob Edwards, who serves as the team’s No. 1 starter, and boasts team-highs in batting average at .390 and extra-base hits with 11.

“It’s always a good thing when you’ve got some older guys that have been through it before,” Tullos said. “Three years ago, they didn’t really understand what was going on, they were just happy to be there. And as they’ve come along, they understand that there is a bigger purpose than just being in the playoffs. The veterans who have been through it, they set the tone with how they play and handle their business day-in and day-out."

And Tullos singled out several of those players.

"Jacob (Edwards) has always done a good job of that. And Peyton (Cain) and Cale (Hollingsworth) have always set good examples," Tullos said. And other guys that have been major contributors, like Tanner (Elders), (Cain) Cleveland and Austin Elders have all do a good job of how they handle their business, and I’m real proud of them for that because that’s something that you can’t coach.”

Columbia (24-5 and District 7-4A champions) is coming off a series win against Poplarville High School, in which the Wildcats dropped the opener, 10-7, but managed to rebound to win the next two contests, 10-1 and 3-2.

“If they’ve made it this far, they obviously have a good ball club,” Tullos said. “I feel like it will be a real good series. It’s going to be exciting, no doubt about it. I tell our guys all the time, the farther you make it in the playoffs, the more fun it is. The crowds get bigger, and it usually gets louder, and the food tastes better as you progress throughout the playoffs.”

The series is set begin at 7 p.m. Friday at Newton County, with Game 2 at Columbia set for 6 p.m. Saturday, and a Game 3 at Newton County at 7 p.m. Monday, if necessary.

“You just want to play good baseball,” Tullos said. “We need to pitch well and play good defense and be opportunistic at the plate. We must play fundamental baseball and play really hard, but also have fun.”

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