Grangers fall short in region opener
LAGRANGE – The LaGrange Grangers did a lot of things right in Thursday’s Region 1-AAAAA opener against unbeaten Columbus.
The Grangers banged out 10 hits, pitchers Jake Farrar and Jake Howard only allowed six hits between them, and they turned in some defensive gems.
The only stat that mattered was the final score, though, and Columbus had the upper-hand in that department.
The Blue Devils pushed three runs across in the fifth inning to take the lead, and they held on for a 4-2 victory.
The two teams will get right back at it today, with Columbus serving as the host team this time.
“We’ll come back tomorrow and try to even it up,” LaGrange head coach David Smart said. “We’ll see what happens. Hopefully we’ll bounce back. We talk all the time it’s not about what happens to you tonight, it’s how you respond. We’ve got a great opportunity to show some resilience, and show some toughness and come back and go get them tomorrow.”
The Grangers took a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning, and Farrar was getting it done on the mound.
After retiring the first batter he faced in the fifth inning, Farrar issued two walks and hit a batter to load the bases, and Jackson Mellenberg’s sacrifice fly tied the score at 2-2.
Dawson Weaver followed with an RBI single to give the Blue Devils the lead, and after Howard entered the game in relief, Gage Dempsey’s base hit pushed the lead to 4-2.
Columbus players reached base via the walk seven times in the game, while LaGrange only received one free pass.
“If you go back and look at the game, that was the difference,” Smart said. “I think we out-hit them, but we just gave them more free passes, and it came up and hurt us in that (fifth) inning.”
Columbus pitcher Cason Greathouse was hardly dominant, but he threw strikes, and he allowed his defense to go to work.
“To their credit, they made some really good plays defensively,” Smart said.
Columbus struck first with a run in the top of the first.
Jerette Lee led off with a bloop double that landed just inside the foul line, and he later scored on a Jack Copley two-out hit.
The Grangers answered with two runs in the bottom of the first, although they could have done a lot more damage.
The Grangers had five straight hits at one point, but they had a runner thrown out trying to steal third, and another player was caught at second trying to stretch a single into a double.
Still, it was a productive inning for LaGrange.
With one out, Howard reached on an infield single to start the rally.
After Ben Anderson’s base hit, Larkin Easterwood’s single tied the game at 1-1.
Jake Farrar followed with a single, and with runners on first and third, Matthew Anderson’s base hit gave the Grangers the 2-1 lead.
Columbus had base runners in two of the next three innings, but Farrar did some great work to keep his team on top.
In the second inning, left fielder Andrew Askew made a terrific running catch for the third out with a man on base.
In the fourth inning, Columbus had two men on, but Farrar got back-to-back strikeouts to end that threat.
The fifth inning started innocently enough with a flyout, but with the help of the three free bases, Columbus was able to rally and take the lead.
The damage could have been worse in the fifth inning, but LaGrange second baseman Willis Kemp made an outstanding diving catch for the third out.
Howard was sharp in relief, giving up no runs in 2 1/3 innings, and he was helped out when catcher Champ Willis threw a base runner out to halt a potential rally in the top of the sixth.
Howard kept the Grangers close with his good work on the mound, but they were unable to rally against Greathouse.
The Grangers had base runners in each of the final three innings, but they couldn’t break through.
Howard led off the fifth inning with a double, but he was left stranded.
In the sixth inning, Matthew Anderson led off with a single, but Columbus turned a double play, and Greathouse got a strikeout for the third out.
In the seventh inning, Howard reached on a two-out single, but Greathouse ended the game with a strikeout.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports