In 2006, Newton County baseball won the 3A state title. Since then, they've moved up a class but haven't had much luck – until now.
The Cougars will take on Lewisburg in Jackson in the Class 4A State Championship series. The battle for the crown will open tonight, with first pitch set for 7:30 p.m. at Trustmark Park.
Head coach Wyatt Tullos said his team is ready and will keep chugging along in hopes of making its hard work pay off.
“Right now we're playing pretty well, we've been hot of late,” he said. “We just want to go out and continue doing that, do what got us to this point. Like I've been telling the guys, don't change what you've been doing, just try to do it better today than you did it yesterday.”
Tullos coaches to the the fundamentals. He said success is about the small things and always striving to be the best, which is done through practice.
“The goal is to be perfect,” Tullos said. “You know you understand that you are never actually going to achieve it, but if you don't shoot for the highest you'll have to settle for the lowest.”
At 28-7, the Cougars finished second in District 5 4A after losing the last series of the season to West Lauderdale. Both teams had entered the final matchup undefeated, with the conference title on the line.
“It was a defining moment,” Tullos said. “I told the team we had two options. We could lay down, or we could get back up and be a better team next week. When it's good, everything is easy, but it's the bad times that define who you are.”
And a better team they turned out to be as Newton County swept its way through the playoffs, topping Richland, Greene County, Germantown and St. Stanislaus.
The Cougars are hoping for a similar outcome this week and another state title. Dating back to the end of the regular season, they've won their last 13 games.
“We wanna go and win. That's he ultimate goal always,” Tullos said.”
Tullos will hand the starting ball to Will Brand on the mound in Game 1. Brand (12-1) has been a leading force for the Cougars all season, stepping up as a senior on the team and leading by example on the mound.
“He's gone out and set the tone each series we've played in division play as well as in playoffs,” Tullos said.
Once Brand sets the tone, Tullos said the rest of the team just follows his lead, but winning requires the fundamentals at all positions.
“You want to do the little things right,” he said. “You want to throw strikes, pitching. You want to field the baseball defense in the infield, outfield, pitcher, catcher. You want to be solid everywhere. Bunt the ball, apply pressure on the bases. I guess thats real cliche but its real fundamental.”
Game 2 will be played on Thursday at 4:30 p.m., and if necessary, Game 3 on Saturday with a time yet to be determined.