Grangers in first at halfway point

Published 12:43 pm Thursday, March 30, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – The LaGrange Grangers are halfway home and they’re sitting in first place in the region, but no one is celebrating.

While the Grangers are pleased to be in first place in Region 5-AAAA with a 5-1 record, there are some talented and dangerous teams hot on their heels.

One of those teams is Troup, which is in a three-way tie for second place in the region at 4-2.

No one in the region is hotter than LaGrange (13-7 overall).

After losing their region opener, the Grangers have won five in a row, and they’ve scored a total of 48 runs in those games.

Still, the Grangers know they’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of them as they look to chase down a region championship.

“In this region, you sure can’t get ahead of yourself,” LaGrange head coach David Smart said. “Every time you come out here, it’s so tough.”

LaGrange began its region schedule with a 3-1 loss to Troup, but it followed that up with a 4-0 home win over Cedartown, and that was the start of the five-game winning streak.

LaGrange reached the midpoint of the region schedule with Tuesday’s 15-5 win over Chapel Hill.

Shortstop Willis Kemp, one of the many seniors in the lineup, said the loss to Troup was an eye-opener.

“We lost to them, and it kind of stunned us,” Kemp said. “It was our first loss in the region, and we had to step it up, and we did.”

The Grangers have been swinging the bat better than anyone in the region.

They’ve scored eight or more runs in three of their past four games, and that included a 19-run outburst against Central-Carroll.

That’s why no one was panicking when the Grangers fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning of Tuesday’s game.

“We know our offense, and how good it is,” senior outfielder David Sweat said.

Sure enough, the Grangers ended up scoring 15 runs in a game that was shortened to five innings because of the run rule.

As has been the case of late, everyone in the lineup contributed, and that included senior Ben Anderson, whose two-run home run highlighted a five-run fifth inning.

Champ Willis had four hits, Hunter Plant and Anderson each had three hits, Charles Crawford had two hits, Sweat had a hit, and Matt Anderson drove in a run.

“We started off slow, but our bats are coming around, and we’re playing a lot better,” said Kemp, who had seven RBIs in a win over Central-Carroll. “We had to take it up a notch.”

The pitching has also been effective.

Ben Anderson is the staff ace, and he pitched a complete game in a 2-1 victory over Cartersville last week.

Matthew Anderson has also been a solid starter, and Jacob Vinson has been terrific out of the bullpen.

Off the field, Kemp said “a big factor is our energy.”

“We’ve turned that around,” he added. “Our energy in the dugout is huge. It’s been real nice. But we’ve got to keep it up.”

As well as the Grangers have been playing, they’re guaranteed nothing.

With six region games to go, LaGrange could obviously win the title, or it could end up missing the playoffs if things go poorly.

“We’re only halfway,” Kemp said. “We’ve got to bring it every day, and keep swinging it.”