LaGrange hopes to stay in first

Published 12:28 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – It wasn’t the way they wanted to begin their region schedule.

Facing the rival Troup Tigers on their home field, the LaGrange Grangers were handcuffed by pitcher Colby Williams, and they ended up losing 3-1.

So how did the Grangers respond to that disappointment?

Beginning with a 4-0 home win over Cedartown, LaGrange ripped off six consecutive Region 5-AAAA wins to move into first place.

LaGrange (17-9 overall) will put its 6-1 region record on the line today when it plays Troup for the second time, and this game will be on the road.

While the Grangers will still have plenty of work to do as they attempt to chase down a region title, there’s no denying the magnitude of this game.

If LaGrange wins, it would remain alone in first place, and it would have a two-game cushion on Troup in the loss column.

If the Grangers lose, they would not only fall into second place, but they would have lost both games to the Tigers, meaning they would lose a tie-breaker if the two teams ended up finished tied.

“I told the kids today, it’s going to come down to who executes the best, who makes plays, and who gets the big hit, and who throws the ball across the plate,” LaGrange head coach David Smart said. “It’s just like every other game.”

Regardless of the outcome, LaGrange will have to quickly put the game in the rear-view mirror.

LaGrange hosts Central-Carroll on Thursday before visiting Cartersville on Friday, and it closes the region schedule with games against Sandy Creek and Chapel Hill next week.

The region’s top four teams will qualify for the state playoffs.

“It’s like our first Troup game,” Smart said. “We got beat, and we had 11 more. If we win this one, or if we lose this one, it’s going to be the same. We’ve got four more. We’ve got a bunch of really good people right there with us.”

Of the region schedule, Smart said. “it’s very relentless. It’s very demanding.”

LaGrange has played a challenging schedule outside of the region, and Smart believes that has been beneficial.

“The thinking behind it was to prepare us for the region, because I knew the region was going to be like this, knew how tough it was going to be,” Smart said. “We knew every time we stepped out on the field we were going to have to bring it and play well.”

As for today’s game, Smart will likely put the ball in the hands of senior Ben Anderson.

Anderson got the start in the earlier game against Troup, and he gave up two unearned runs and two hits in five innings.

Anderson’s finest outing of the season came against Cartersville on March 23.

Anderson gave up five hits and five walks, but he had 11 strikeouts as LaGrange outlasted Cartersville 2-1.

LaGrange would also be in good hands with Matthew Anderson on the mound.

Anderson has also pitched well in big games this season, and he tossed five scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over Cedartown on March 18.

Jacob Vinson has been superb out of the bullpen for LaGrange, and he threw two innings in the earlier game against Troup.

Cole Freeman, who missed much of the season while recovering from an injury, has returned and provides some key depth to the pitching staff, and Coy Tedescucci, John Morgan and Ben Stogner have also been effective.

Morgan was the starting and winning pitcher during Saturday’s 6-5 win over Loganville.

A key to LaGrange’s success of late has been the performance of the offense, which has been battering opposing pitchers.

In four of their six region wins, the Grangers have scored at least eight runs, and that included a 19-run outburst against Central-Carroll on March 21.

Everyone in the lineup has been producing for the Grangers, including Ben Anderson, who had three home runs in an 11-3 win over Cedartown on March 30.

In that same game, Willis Kemp and Hunter Plant also had home runs, and Champ Willis had a pair of hits.

In a 19-6 win over Central-Carroll, David Sweat was 5-for-5, and Kemp was 4-for-4 with seven RBIs.

Matthew Anderson, Jacob Vinson, Cole Freeman, Trevor John Norris, Charles Crawford and Coy Tedescucci have been among LaGrange’s other offensive contributors during the hot streak.