Despite losing to the Carrollton Trojans 3-2 in their Region 5-AAAA finale on Tuesday, the LaGrange Grangers have earned an invitation to the state playoffs.
The Grangers finished their region schedule with an 8-6 record, and that’s good enough to secure the region’s fourth and final playoff spot.
The Grangers lost four in a row at one point this season to fall to 4-5 in the region, but they followed that up with a four-game winning streak to make it to state.
“We didn’t actually take care of it on the field today, but in the big picture, we earned it,” LaGrange coach Todd Herrington said. “And we did what we had to do throughout the region schedule to be where we are. We’re where we’re supposed to be.”
The Grangers started out with a 4-1 record in the region, and they were tied for first place, but they fell on hard times after that, and when they lost to Columbus 2-0 on April 10, they had a losing record in the region.
LaGrange bounced back to thump Alexander 14-7, and it followed that up with three more wins, including a big 3-2 victory over Troup on Monday.
Troup finished at 7-7 in the region, one game back of LaGrange.
Herrington believes the way the Grangers responded to the losing streak says a lot about their character.
“The guys could have easily just given up. But it’s an old cliche, but if you’re backed up in an alley with a knife to your throat, what are you doing to do? You’re going to come out fighting,” Herrington said. “And the guys came out fighting. I was very proud of them. They showed a lot of character.”
Carrollton, meanwhile, was able to celebrate a region championship after Tuesday’s game.
The Trojans had a one-game lead over Columbus coming into the game, and they took care of business to claim the region crown.
It wasn’t easy.
Pitchers Jake Farrar and Jake Howard did a nice job of keeping Carrollton’s high-powered offense in check, but the Grangers only managed two runs themselves against a trio of pitchers.
The Grangers scored a run in the bottom of the seventh to get within a run, and they had the bases loaded with two outs, but Carrollton’s Brandon Pedigro got a strikeout to end it.
“We fought,” Herrington said. “Even when we were down in the last inning, we had a chance to win.”
The Trojans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a two-run double by Mitch McClendon.
The Grangers got within a run in the bottom of the third when senior Wynton Heard came through with a leadoff home run.
In the fifth inning, it looked like Heard may have connected for another home run.
Heard put a charge into the ball and drove it deep to center field, but Carrollton’s Andrew Turner made a remarkable catch to keep the ball in the park.
The ball cleared the fence, but Turner went high into the air to make the catch, and rob Heard of a home run.
The Trojans, still clinging to a one-run lead, picked up a key insurance run in the top of the seventh when Turner put a well-placed bunt down to drive in a run.
The Grangers threatened in their half of the seventh.
Logan Hood led off with a single, and Ben Anderson followed with a double to put runners on first and third.
Pedigro then entered the game in relief, and he promptly struck out the first two batters he faced.
After an intentional walk to Heard to load the bases, Howard came through with an RBI single to right field on an 0-2 pitch, and thee Grangers were down by just one run, and the bases were still full.
Pedigro got a strikeout to end the suspense, though.
It was an unsatisfying ending to the game, but it was nonetheless a happy group of players when they found out they were going to state.
“I’m just happy we’re in, an we have a chance to go out and compete,” Herrington said. “I’m really proud of this group of guys, because our backs were literally against the wall.”