By Kevin Eckleberry email@example.com
May 5, 2014
The season was hanging in the balance.
Actually, it was teetering over the edge of the cliff, and a gentle breeze likely would have pushed it down into the abyss.
That’s how desperate things were for the LaGrange Grangers after they lost four consecutive Region 5-AAAA games to go from first place to fifth place in about a week.
At 4-5 in the region, though, the Grangers still had time to get their season turned around and make it to the playoffs.
“I’m proud of the way they’ve hung in there,” LaGrange coach Todd Herrington said. “They could have folded the tent, but they decided to fight.”
They fought, all right.
After the losing streak, the Grangers won four straight games, a streak capped by a 3-2 win over the Troup Tigers, to make it in as the region’s number four seed.
“They want to win. And they’re not happy when they lose, which is good,” Herrington said. “They did learn how to overcome the losses, and get over it. They had no choice.”
Not satisfied just to make the playoffs, LaGrange then went up to Northwest Whitfield and swept a first-round series from the number one seed from Region 7-AAAA.
LaGrange will try to keep its season going when it travels to Buford to take on Lanier High School on Wednesday in a second-round matchup.
The teams will play a doubleheader on Wednesday beginning at 5 p.m., and if needed, a third game would be played Thursday.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said Chas Pardue, one of the team’s seven seniors. “We’ve come back and proven we were better than people thought we were.”
Coming into the season, Herrington figured there would be a few bumps in the road.
The team lost a lot of starters from last year’s team, so there figured to be an adjustment period as some players got used to being every-day players.
Also, LaGrange played a brutally difficult schedule, both inside of the region and out.
Even before the Grangers began region play, they’d already played a host of elite teams, including four talented teams in the LaGrange Toyota Invitational.
Once the Grangers began their region schedule, there were no cupcakes there either.
In the first round of the playoffs, all four of the teams from Region 5-AAAA were victorious.
While other teams in the state have had an easier time reaching this point, Herrington believes the difficult road has been a big benefit for his team.
“I’m glad we’re in our region. It helped us,” Herrington said. “And the non-region schedule we played before that has prepared us.”
In the first round, LaGrange and Northwest had drastically different records.
Northwest was 20-4, and it hadn’t faced much in the way of adversity all season.
LaGrange was 12-14, but it was tested and basically been in playoff mode for weeks.
“It wasn’t anything different,” Pardue said of going from the regular season to the playoffs. “It was either win, or be done. That’s pretty much how it’s been.”
The Grangers went out and scored four runs in the first inning of Game 1, and the Bruins were unable to answer.
LaGrange went on to win the first game 7-3 before finishing the sweep with a 4-2 victory.
Herrington said the fast start “kind of set the tone for the rest of the day. I think we shocked them a little bit. I’m not sure they were expecting that.”
In the first game, senior pitcher Logan Hood went the distance, and he was backed up by an offense that pounded out nine hits.
Caleb Buchanan, Ben Anderson and Jake Howard each had two hits, and Logan Moody and Hood each had two RBIs.
Jake Farrar and Buchanan had one RBI apiece.
In the second game, it was the sophomore due of Farrar and Howard that got the job done on the mound.
Farrar started and pitched five superb innings, and Howard tossed the final two innings.
The Grangers finished with seven hits.
Anderson and Hood each had two hits, and senior Wynton Heard had a hit and two RBIs.
Hood and Tristain Daugherty also knocked in runs for the Grangers.
“I am real proud of the entire team. All 23 guys that are on the roster contributed,” Herrington said.
Among those 23 players are a handful of veterans, including the seven seniors, but there are also some sophomores, and even a freshmen, who have made major contributions to the team.
Howard (catcher) and Farrar (first base) have been starters all season in the field, and they’ve also been key members of the pitching staff.
Another sophomore, Larkin Easterwood, has filled in at catcher on occasion, usually when Howard is pitching.
Anderson, a freshman, has been one of the team’s top hitters this season, and he had a combined four hits in the Northwest Whitfield series.
On the other side of the ledger are the veterans who were on the team in 2012 that made it to the state quarterfinals.
“We’ve got some seniors that hung around that old team, with Jacob Boccucci and all them. That helps,” Pardue said. “And we’ve got the excitement of the younger guys being around. They haven’t been there. And they want to do good.”
The Grangers’ playoff hopes may have taken a hit with the losing streak, but they kept fighting, and now they’re one of 16 teams left standing in Class AAAA.
“There was a lot of motivation. We didn’t want our last year to end (without the playoffs),” Pardue said. “We wanted to make the postseason. We’re trying to go far now.”