A season of difficulties reached its peak Wednesday night as Newton’s biggest achievement was a player getting hit by a pitch.
The Rams’ softball team was shutout 9-0 by Heritage with Patriots pitcher Kierra Camp having her bid for a perfect game spoiled in the fifth and final inning when she hit Caitlyn Bowen with an inside pitch.
Heritage's ace pitcher capitalized the K in her first name with a no-hit, 13-strikeout performance.
Camp blew through the Rams' lineup striking out 12 of the first 13 batters she faced. The junior was cruising along as Heritage approached a run-ruled
shortened game, before putting a runner on base.
After Marie Diaz grounded out to short for just the second ball to get in play, Camp struck out Deanna Jackson. With pinch-hitter Caitlyn Bowen up to the plate, Camp threw a little too far inside and hit the freshman to put the only Rams' runner on base all game.
Camp then got Ashton McKinson to ground out to second base for the final out.
"Kierra is Kierra, any time she's in the circle you have a chance to win, it doesn't matter who it is," Heritage coach Jason McBay said. "She was in the zone today. I know she wanted that perfect game badly, at least she got the no-hitter."
It was the fifth straight loss for Newton in as many games and the second straight which didn’t reach its full seven innings. The Rams also fell to Griffin 10-1 in five innings Saturday.
Newton coach Virginia Waters came into this season knowing she would have to play a lot of younger girls but also thought that her older players would lead the way.
She has four of her five freshmen starting this year from the list that includes Ciera Bryant, Ashton McKinnon, Shelby Landron, Shannon Walker and Bowen.
“I knew with the girls we still had, I knew the younger ones they know the game well, I knew they could step up and fill some spots replacing some people that have graduated,” Waters said. “They’ve done that alright. But with new girls, it’s like they hadn’t gelled with older girls.”
Newton won’t have a lot of time to gel thanks to an aggressive schedule made by Waters following a 13-9 season in 2011.
“Last season as I was moving forward with this year, I scheduled lots of games - two or three during the week – and felt that we were good enough to play back-to-back-to-back games,” Waters said. “Now we have to play through all these games I scheduled.”
The Rams have struggled through the schedule at this point, playing just two times a week with the exception of tournaments.
The most runs Newton has been able to score in one game is four in a 5-4 loss to Crawford County on Saturday. Other than that it has been held to two by Fatetty County and one each by Jackson and Griffin.
Wednesday marked the worst offensive performance thanks to Camp, who struck out every batter she faced each time, with the exception of Brown, Diaz and Bre Weaver, who grounded out to the pitcher in the first inning.
"She definitely had the most movement and change of speed that we've run across this season," Waters said. "She's a really, really strong pitcher."
While Camp was dealing, Heritage was running the bases.
The Patriots started by scoring on their first three batters of the game. Nielah Floyd reached with a leadoff single, before stealing second and moving to third on a passed ball. She scored on an RBI error to shortstop by Diamond Callwood.
Callwood stole second and then was sent to third on a double steal along with Kamryn Toney. As Newton was trying to throw out Tonye, Callwood ran to third, and then stole home. Toney scored on a sacrifice by Taylor Moser.
The Patriots stole eight more bases, including one by Cierra Davenport, who opened the bottom of the second on a single. Davenport scored on Callwood's two-out RBI single to center field. Callwood came home on Camp's double.
Moser reached first to lead off the third inning, before stealing seond and third and then coming home as Carri Wilkerson attempted to steal second.
"Right now from Kierra all the way to our manager, everyone has kind of embraced their roll," McBay said. "When it works like that everyone can accomplish more."
Latise Albert throws a pitch during Newton's 9-0 loss to Heritage on Wednesday night.
Ciera Bryant catches a fly ball during Newton's road game against Heritage Saturday.