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Grangers look to keep season alive

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

LAGRANGE – Here we go again.

A year ago, after outlasting Union Grove in a dramatic series that went the full three games, LaGrange High’s baseball team traveled to Greensville for a second-round series in the state playoffs.

Both games were close, but it was LaGrange’s season ending with the 6-3 and 2-1 losses/

Today, the Grangers will have a chance to take it a step further than they did a year ago.

LaGrange, after thumping Chestatee in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs a week ago, will be at home against Northside in the second round.

Northside, the number four seed from Region 1-AAAA, upset Cross Creek in a first-round series, which is why LaGrange will be at home instead of on the road.

They’ll play a doubleheader today at 5 p.m., with the if-game set for Thursday if needed.

The series was originally supposed to start on Thursday, but the decision was made to push everything up a day because of concerns over the weather.

Here are some tidbits regarding the LaGrange vs. Northside series:

HOW THEY GOT HERE: LaGrange (21-11) finished second in Region 5-AAA with a 9-3 record to earn home-field advantage for the first round of the state playoffs…In the state opener, LaGrange swept Chestatee in two games, both by the same 10-0 score. Northside (15-10) finished fourth in Region 1-AAAA, and it went on the road to face Region 4-AAAA-champion Cross Creek in the first round. Northside swept the series 12-2 and 6-4.

A LOOK BACK: LaGrange overwhelmed Chestatee last week. In the first game, Ben Anderson pitched the six-inning shutout, and he gave up just four hits and one walk. Offensively, Willis Kemp had two hits and two RBIs. Cole Freeman had two hits with an RBI, and Matt Anderson and David Sweat each had a hit and an RBI. Champ Willis had an RBI, and Jacob Vinson had a hit. In Game 2, Matt Anderson had two hits and three RBIs, Kemp had a hit and two RBIs, Willis drove in three runs, Ben Anderson had two hits, Hunter Plant had a hit and an RBI, Sweat had two hits, and Freeman drove in a run. LaGrange coach David Smart sent John Morgan to the mound for Game 2, and he responded in fine fashion. Morgan worked around five hits to throw the shutout.

REMATCH: LaGrange opened the season with a 2-0 victory over Northside. Ben Anderson, the likely starter in Game 1 today, pitched six shutout innings to get the win, and Matt Anderson threw a scoreless seventh inning.

The Grangers managed to score two runs on just one hit. LaGrange scored both runs in the third inning. Sweat, LaGrange’s leadoff hitter, walked and stole second, and Ben Anderson and Willis Kemp were both hit by pitches. When a pitch got past the catcher, Sweat raced home and slid into the plate for the first run, and another wild pitch allowed Ben Anderson to score the second run. Ben Anderson had LaGrange’s only hit.

WELCOME BACK: LaGrange senior Trevor John Norris had been out of action since injuring his hand during a game in early April. Norris missed the final five games of the regular season, but he was able to get on the field for last week’s playoff series. While Norris didn’t hit or field, he got into the game as a pinch-runner. Before the injury, Norris was a second baseman and occasional member of the lineup. Norris’ return gives head coach David Smart another player to utilize moving forward.

FAMILIAR OPPONENT: David Smart, LaGrange’s second-year head coach, is quite familiar with Northside’s baseball program.

Smart spent six seasons as Northside’s head coach, and he stepped down from that position following the 2014 season. Smart, who was an assistant coach at Columbus High for a decade, had a 93-68 record at Northside.