By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
Over the course of three seasons, there was a point in time when it appeared Newton County slow-pitch softball would never lose another game.
Although the Cougars were coming off an undefeated season, in which the they finished 35-0 and won the Class 4A state championship, many doubted their ability to repeat as champions due to the loss of five departing seniors — even head coach Justin Chaney had his doubts.
“I tell you what, as a coach, when you lose five people you just aim for .500,” Chaney said. “The next thing I know we are 20-0. I think it goes back to the young ladies, because it showed they wanted to carry on that tradition. I just thought it was remarkable how these girls stepped in and we kept clicking right along.”
The Cougars just kept winning and in the process netted the No. 9 sports story of the year by The Star.
The young Newton County team, made up of almost all underclassmen continued to either blow out opponents, or come up with key plays in close games. The streak soon hit 50 games, then 60 games; in a sport which lends itself to parity, the Cougars simply wouldn’t lose.
“We didn’t talk about it a lot,” Chaney said. “But, with so many social outlets these day, it gets out there. There is nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong. All we ever tried to do were two things.
“Our No. 1 goal was to go game-by-game and take one win at a time. Our next goal was to make sure we were worrying about the big picture. We were not focused on a streak, we were focused on a state championship.”
The streak would continue on to 68 games when the Newton County met up with Neshoba Central on Oct. 4, a team they had narrowly beat 2-0 earlier in the season.
The Cougars took a 23-0 record into the game and a 4-1 lead into the third inning, but Neshoba was primed for the upset.
The Rockets scored twice in the third before tying the game in the fourth inning. With two out in the sixth inning Neshoba's Katlyn Duke got it started for the Rockets, lifting a double to left field. After an error and an intentional walk, Kaila Willis put the final touches on the comeback, knocking a double to spark a four-run rally to sink the Cougars.
“He won 68 in a row,” Neshoba head coach Trae Embry said. “Every single night, they had to bring it, because everybody wanted to be the team to beat the streak. We were lucky enough on that night to win the game.”
The Cougars would go streaking again after the loss, winning their next eight game and advancing to the 4A state championship against Corinth. Ultimately the Cougars would fail to win their third-straight state championship, falling 2-1 in a best-of-three series. However, Chaney could not have been more proud of his team.
“It was a heartbreaking time for our young ladies,” Chaney said. “But now that I have had some time to reflect on it, it was an awesome season. I couldn't be more happy for our girls and our program.”
The Cougars will return almost their entire team in 2013 and appear poised to make yet another title run. Newton County will more than likely continue its winning tradition next year and in years to come, but Chaney said there will always be a special place in history for the girls involved in one of the state's most memorable runs.
“It was a unique experience,” Chaney said. “It was fun. If you got a streak like that, you aren't losing. Now that I have a chance to reflect on it, the unique thing is that we had a perfect season in there. We went 35-0, and we have never had a team at Newton County able to do that. It was great.”
“You look back at it, it was something those girls can be very proud of.”