By Rocky Higginbotham / Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
Players from Newton County’s dugout barely made it to the foul line before a celebratory dogpile ensued here Saturday. Indeed, winning never gets old.
The Lady Cougars blanked Houston 10-0 Saturday at Freedom Ridge Park, completing an easy sweep of their best-of-three, Class 4A State Championship Series and gaining a measure of revenge after falling short a year ago.
“Hey, I enjoyed this one every bit as much as the first one,” Newton County coach Justin Chaney said of Newton County, which now owns 14 state championships -- seven each in slow-pitch and fast-pitch competition.
A year ago, Newton County dropped 10-7 and 5-3 decisions to Houston and left Freedom Ridge disappointed. This time around, the Lady Cougars took a pair of rout-shortened wins and outscored the Lady Hilltoppers 26-3.
“We didn’t play well last year,” Chaney said. “But I thought we played a complete and total game today and yesterday. I couldn’t be happier and these girls deserve every bit of the credit.”
Newton County banged out 14 hits and took advantage of a host of Houston miscues in Friday’s 16-3 win. Saturday, the Lady Cougars kept plugging away before finally erupting for five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to finish off the Lady Toppers.
Darby Bishop put the finishing touches on a perfect 23-0 season in the circle with a two-hit shutout, facing just three hitters over the minimum.
“I really didn’t think she pitched that good Friday,” Chaney said. “But she came right back out there today and was in complete control.
“And what can you say about these girls? They made play after play once again and kept doing the little things that we preach. I just can’t say enough about our mentality, our effort and our execution in either of these games.”
Ashton Lampton was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, collecting a key two-run double on the first pitch she saw from Houston’s Avery Springer in the second inning that put Newton County ahead for good.
Abby Reeves was also 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, two runs and two RBIs and Savannah Gates had two hits and two RBIs.
“It’s been different people stepping up for us every time all season long,” Chaney said. “We’re very team-oriented and just about every time out, we had somebody stepping up and getting a big hit or making a big play to help us win.”
Bishop added a double and a pair of runs scored; Cassidy Blount had one hit and twoRBIs; and both Shea Alexander and Hannah May added base hits and runs for the Lady Cougars.
Reeves doubled and scored in the third to make it 3-0, then Bishop and Reeves had doubles in a two-run fifth that made it 5-0.
In the sixth, Alexander, May and Lampton started the frame with back-to-back-to-back base hits for the Lady Cougars, who went unbeaten in the postseason and finished 30-4.
Houston, meanwhile, finished 26-8 one year after winning its first fast-pitch championship.
“Hey, I didn’t sleep a wink last night,” Chaney said. “Everything came a little easy for us yesterday and I just knew this game was going to be much closer. “Those kids from Houston, they’ve been here and we knew they were going to scratch
and gonna claw and fight. “You’ve just got to tip your hat to our girls. They really showed up and came to
play when it mattered the most and I couldn’t be more proud of a bunch of young ladies.”