Newton County defeats Lawrence County

Published 2:00 am Sunday, May 11, 2014

DAILY LEADER / MARTY ALBRIGHT / Lawrence County's Alyssa Pendergrass (1) is called out at second as Northeast Lauderdale's second baseman Latesia Davis (39) receives the catch for the forced out Saturday afternoon.

DAILY LEADER / MARTY ALBRIGHT / Lawrence County’s Alyssa Pendergrass (1) is called out at second as Newton County’s second baseman Latesia Davis (39) receives the catch for the forced out Saturday afternoon.

MONTICELLO – Newton County defeated Lawrence County 7-2 Saturday afternoon in the opening game of a best-of-three series for the 4A South State fast-pitch championship.

LCHS jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but Newton County dominated after that. Buoyed by an outstanding defense, Newton County pitcher Darby Bishop retired 16 of the last 17 Lady Cougar batters, setting the stage for her team’s comeback.

With the win, Justin Chaney’s team, seemingly always a contender for state fast-pitch honors, improved to 30-4 on the campaign. Lawrence County fell to 27-5. The Lady Cougars will travel to Newton County on Monday, for Game Two of the series. The third game, if necessary, will follow shortly thereafter.

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“We’re awfully happy to be in South State,” said Lawrence County coach Mark Howard, who is running the Lady Cougars team while his wife, Meleah, is on maternity leave. “But we didn’t play our best game today. While a lot of credit is due Newton County, we didn’t have a very good game defensively, or at the plate.

“We’ve definitely got a shot Monday,” Howard said, “but it’ll take two very good games on our part. Our margin for error against Newton County is very small. They’re very solid.”

Howard’s girls got off to a good start on Saturday. A leadoff single by Alyssa Pendergrass and two-out, RBI hits by Jamie Martin and Tiera Collins staked the Lady Cougars to a 2-0 lead.

Pendergrass singled and stole her way around to third in the second inning, but was stranded. After that, the Lady Cougar offense managed only a sixth-inning single by Tiera Collins.

Bishop, Newton County’s pitcher, wasn’t overpowering, but she was very good. She struck out four and walked just one. Five of Lawrence County’s six base runners came in the first two innings. Newton County’s defense, led by shortstop Ashton Lampton, was outstanding.

Newton County tied it with two runs in the top of the third. Newton County took the lead with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, and iced the game with three more in the top of the seventh. Lampton had three hits, and Darby added two to pace Newton County.

Pendergrass and Collins each had two hits for LCHS. Martin’s hit was a booming RBI double. Lady Cougar hurler Elizabeth Smith was gallant in defeat. She scattered nine hits, walked four, and struck out three.