Last updated: May 01. 2014 3:05PM - 484 Views
By Kevin Eckleberry

Senior John Patterson has helped the LaGrange Grangers return to the playoffs after missing out a year ago.Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
Senior John Patterson has helped the LaGrange Grangers return to the playoffs after missing out a year ago.Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News
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He never knows when he’ll play.

LaGrange High’s John Patterson has started some games this season, but he usually begins a game on the bench, waiting to hear his name called by head coach Todd Herrington.

“We don’t know when we’re going in,” Patterson said, referring to himself and the other non-starters. “You just have to be ready whenever he calls and get the job done.”

Herrington said it is that sort of team-first attitude that has helped the Grangers return to the state playoffs after coming up short a year ago.

LaGrange, which finished fourth in Region 5-AAAA, will visit Region 7-AAAA-champion Northwest Whitfield on Friday for the start of a three-game series.

The teams will play a doubleheader on Friday beginning at 5 p.m., and if needed a third game would be played Saturday at 1 p.m.

Herrington said the Grangers have a lot of players who play a huge role by “being unselfish, and just supporting the team and working hard, and making everyone around you better. That’s a huge factor.”

Patterson is one of those guys, as is senior Austin Rogers, who has played sporadically this season.

In Saturday’s regular-season finale, Rogers got a double, much to the delight of his teammates who gave him a big ovation.

“Guys like that go unnoticed a lot, but I notice them,” Herrington said. “I understand how big that is. They’re appreciated.”

Senior outfielder Wynton Heard, who was the starting quarterback for the Grangers during football season, is an occasional starter, and senior infielder Caleb Buchanan has bounced back nicely this season after missing much of the 2013 season with an injury.

Senior Hakeem Stargell is the starting shortstop, and senior Chas Pardue is a starting outfielder.

Pardue is an example of a player who waited his turn, and when he got a chance to play a lot, he made the most of it.

“You’re there, and you’re always waiting on your chance,” Pardue said. “You’re ready. It’s something you’ve been waiting on. You’re ready to go.”

Patterson said the seniors, and everyone else on the team, is committed to making the most of his opportunity.

“I think everybody wants it. We’ll go as far as we can,” Patterson said. “We can beat anybody, as long as we have that focus.”

The Grangers head into the playoffs with a losing record, but they have played an extremely challenging schedule while earning a playoff spot in one of the state’s best regions.

During the season LaGrange beat some of the state’s best teams including Cartersville, Alexander and Columbus.

There have also been some rough patches.

Most notably, the Grangers endured a four-game losing streak that dropped them to 4-5 in the region, and their playoff hopes were very much on the ropes.

LaGrange responded with a four-game winning streak that was capped by a big 3-2 win over Troup.

LaGrange lost its final region game to Carrollton, but it was still able to secure the region’s fourth and final playoff spot.

After the losing streak, Herrington said the season “could have gone either way.”

“It could have been a downhill slide, but these guys chose to rise up and fight,” Herrington said. “They proved what they could do.”

The season turned around when LaGrange ended its losing streak with a 14-7 win over Alexander.

“That got us going,” Herrington said. “We got the bats going. And then we just got on a roll after that.”

When the Grangers have been successful offensively, they have gotten contributions from players throughout the lineup.

The Alexander game is a prime example of that.

Pardue and Jake Farrar each hit home runs, and Heard and Logan Moody each had two-run doubles.

Stargell and Jackson Shelnutt also had RBI hits, and other players in the lineup including Hood, Ben Anderson and Buchanan also had big hits.

In LaGrange’s next game, a critical 9-7 win over Sandy Creek, Buchanan and Stargell each came through with home runs to help the Grangers rally for the win.

Then in the Troup game, Anderson - a freshman - had three hits, including a triple that led to the winning run in the seventh inning.

“Sometimes it’s somebody at the top of the order, and sometimes it’s somebody at the bottom of the order that comes through with a big hit, or moves a runner, of gets a sac fly, or gets a groundball to score somebody,” Herrington said. “It’s usually been somebody different. It has been spread out.”

As for the men on the mound, Hood is the number one guy on a deep staff.

Junior Jake Howard, the starting catcher, has provided some critical innings this season, including five shutout innings in the come-from-behind win over Sandy Creek late in the season.

Farrar and Logan Carson have also pitched well this season, with Carson doing most of his work out of the bullpen.

“Those have been our four main guys, but we have others to that we don’t feel bad about throwing out there,” Herrington said.

Junior Tristain Daugherty has struggled at times this season, but he had a nice outing against Northside on Saturday in the regular-season finale.

“It looks like he’s gotten a little bit of a groove back,” Herrington said. “He was throwing it in the strike zone pretty well, and the ball was moving. His ball moves probably better than anybody he has. He may not throw it hard, but he does get a lot of movement.”

Moody and fellow junior Sam Hacker have also been used out of the bullpen this season.

As the playoffs go along, all of those pitchers could end up being used, especially if a series ends up going the full three games.

As for the playoff opener, LaGrange will take on a Northwest Whitfield team that has a splendid 20-4 record.

Northwest beat Cedartown in a best-of-three series to win the region championship.

“We got to watch them play, and they have a pretty solid pitching staff,” Herrington said. “They have a couple of leftys, and I think a righty or two in there.”

Herrington told his players to be ready for the series to go the distance.

“You have to be prepared for a three-game series,” Herrington said.

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