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Lawrence Co. drops opener to Newton Co.

DECATUR – Newton County defeated Lawrence County 9-3 in the first game of a best-of-three 4A playoff series Thursday.

Newton County jumped to an early 5-0 lead, saw Lawrence County trim its lead to 5-2, then put the game away with four unearned runs in the sixth inning.

Josh Stephens

Josh Stephens

With the win, Newton County, coached by Wyatt Tullos, improved to 27-5 on the season. Lawrence County, under coach Josh Garrett, fell to 27-3. The second game of the series is slated for Lawrence County’s Jimmie Davis Park at 6 p.m. today. A third game, if necessary, will be back in Decatur on Monday.

“We lost to a very good team,” said Garrett, who is in his second season at LCHS. “They’re the best team we’ve faced this season. We’ve got a shot to force this to a third game, but we have to play a very clean, almost perfect game, to do so.”

Newton County scored two runs on sacrifice flies in the first inning, then exploded for three runs on six hits in the bottom of the second. It was 5-0 after two innings.

“As bad a 5-0 was,” said long-time LCHS assistant Craig Davis, “we really dodged a bullet to keep it that close. We almost got blown out of the water there in the second, but were able to leave the bases loaded and survive. After that, Josh (Stephens) did a great job of keeping us in the game. We really butchered up that last inning, or he’d have gotten out of there with just five runs.”

Trailing 5-0 almost from the outset, Lawrence County had its hands full with Newton County ace Tanner Elders. Elders shut the Cougars out through four innings, allowing only two Stephens singles.

In the top of the fifth, a great at-bat by LCHS first baseman Brennan Lang resulted in a single to left. Left-fielder Seth Bass then slammed Elders’ next pitch over the left field wall. Suddenly, Lawrence County was back in the game.

It was still 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth, when a dropped fly ball and an infield throwing error opened the door for Newton County to tally four unearned runs. Kasey Durr had an RBI double for the Cougars in the seventh, but Newton County had secured the first game of the series.

“We certainly had a chance to keep this thing closer,” said Davis. “And thus give ourselves a chance late in the game. That said, Newton County was the better team tonight. They deserved to win this game.

“Our guys played their hearts out like they always do, and I’m sure they’ll do so in game two tomorrow. Our goal now is to extend this thing to a third game on Monday.”

Josh Stephens gave it a very good fight against Newton County’s potent lineup. He allowed nine hits and struck out one. Elders allowed five hits and struck out nine LCHS hitters.

Newton County shortstop Jacob Edwards, regarded as one of the state’s top high-school players, led Newton County with two hits.