Newnan outfielder comes through in clutch
by Chris Goltermann
The Braves don’t have the only trio in town that seem to cover the entire outfield grass from first to third effortlessly.
Devin Henry proved it all too well on Wednesday for the Newnan Cougars in a 4-0 victory over Westlake in another tense Region 3-AAAAAA game with the Lions over a two-day span to open a three-game series this week.
The senior right-fielder hustled to first on a two-out throwing error and scored the eventual game-winning run in a scoreless game in the fifth.
He then prevented Westlake from potentially tying things by chasing down a deep fly hit into the gap to end the top of the sixth to help hold off a Lions lineup that is proving itself to be a challenge to unbeaten frontrunners Newnan and East Coweta.
On Wednesday, Newnan fans, many wearing their “Cougars For A Cure” T-shirt with a message of “Do It For Boomer” on the back got their money’s worth. Prior to the game, Newnan head coach Kenny Morris accepted a check for $500 from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America to go towards the school’s second annual fundraiser to combat the disease, which affects thousands including longtime Newnan High booster Danny “Boomer” Bishop, who has been unable to attend games.
“Boomer” definitely would have liked this one.
The Cougars (15-3, 7-0) won their 11th straight game and held on to their undefeated record in 3-AAAAAA in part to defense, timely hitting and another solid effort on the mound from Brandon Dawson, who struck out 10 including the side in the seventh to close out a complete-game victory.
“I thought it was that way for all seven [innings],” said Morris of the intensity between his Cougars and a Westlake team coached by Newnan High alum and former major leaguer Jerome Walton. “[Tuesday’s] game was like that too.”
A senior outfield of Henry, centerfielder Rodney Tennie and Charles Reeves stayed busy on both ends, reaching base a combined six times near the bottom of the Newnan batting order and combined for five putouts, though none as crucial as Henry’s over-the-shoulder grab running towards Tennie in center to chase down Ryan Green’s long flyball with teammate Tre Kemp on first.
“That was a huge play,” said Morris. “It possibly saved us a run right there.”
Dawson, meanwhile, was just as sharp while staying ahead of Westlake batters despite giving up five hits, two of which came in the first inning. Cougars catcher Conner Dunn cut down Malcolm Boyce trying to steal second, saving another potential run when Jamar Walton followed with a triple to the gap.
Dunn later caught a third-strike that popped high off the backstop screen that allowed Dawson to strikeout the side after allowing a single and a walk to open the second inning. On Tuesday, senior catcher Sam Buchanan threw out a pair of Lions in 3-2 game heading into the top of the seventh.
“I thought Conner did a great job behind the plate,” said Morris of Dunn, who went 1-for-2 with a walk.
The plays loomed big considering Newnan came up empty through four innings against Westlake starting pitcher Sequann Bailey. The Lions right-hander retired his first seven batters in order before Dunn hit a high chopper over Kemp at third for one of the Cougars’ four hits.
Bailey, however, tired to open the bottom of the sixth after yielding an unearned run through five. After hitting leadoff man Jonathan Swenson, Bailey gave up a single to Reeves sandwiched between two walks, one with the bases loaded. An ensuing wild-pitch made it 3-0 before being replaced by Boyce, who gave up two more walks, the latter to Henry to score another Cougar run.
“He did a good job out there,” said Walton of Bailey. “I went out to ask if he was tired [with the bases loaded] and he said ‘no.’ Baseball is all about timely hitting.”
On Wednesday, Newnan led the category as Westlake stranded seven runners. The Cougars, meanwhile, got a clutch two-out RBI single from Will Dreggors to left-field that scored Henry for a 1-0 lead after it looked as if the Lions had snuffed out a rally.
Tennie, who reached on a bunt single, was eventually tagged out at home trying to score on a potential squeeze play in the bottom of the fifth. A pitchout and tag came before Henry could try and get a bat on the ball.
“We had a squeeze on and they called for a pitchout,” Morris said. “Give them credit, they got us there.”
Henry, however, capitalized on a groundball that went under Kemp’s legs for an error. Despite Bailey tossing over four times to hold the runner, Henry stole second and raced to third when the throw caromed into center.
“What I told them afterwards, is that we did a great job of battling back,” Morris said.