Grangers’ Morgan shines in playoffs

Published 11:07 pm Sunday, May 14, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – Twice during the state playoffs, LaGrange High baseball coach David Smart has handed the ball to pitcher John Morgan in a potential series-clinching game.
In both games, the junior has responded in big-time fashion.
In the first round against Chestatee, Morgan was on the mound for a 10-0 victory that wrapped up that series.
In a game that was shortened to five innings because of the run rule, Morgan pitched the complete game.
In the second round against Northside, Morgan remained on standby and didn’t make an appearance, but he was back on the mound last week for Game 2 of a quarterfinal playoff series against Stephens County.
Unlike the Chestatee game where there was no suspense, it was tight most of the way against Stephens County.
The Grangers produced two runs in the second inning, but they didn’t score again until the final inning.
That meant, for most of the game, Stephens County was never more than a two-run home run away from pulling even.
Morgan was unaffected by that pressure.
While he allowed plenty of base runners, Morgan didn’t let any runs cross the plate during his 5 2/3 innings on the hill.
Morgan gave up eight hits and threw 89 pitches, but with some help from the defense, he held the Indians scoreless.
Jacob Vinson got the final four outs for the save as the Grangers won 5-0 to clinch the series and make it to the final four where they’ll face Marist, with the series set to get under way on Wednesday.
“He was hitting his spots, he was throwing strikes,” said Ben Anderson, who pitched 6 2/3 innings to get the win in Game 1. “That was big. He came up clutch.”
Senior shortstop Willis Kemp said “John came in and did a really good job.”
“He kept the ball down, and gave us a lot of ground balls,” Kemp added. “And our defense worked behind him. We had some good catches in the outfield, and Charles (Crawford) made a bunch of plays at third. John did a great job. He came in and showed that he can get it done.”
In both games on Wednesday, Smart turned to Vinson to finish things off on the mound.
As has been the case nearly every time Vinson has pitched this season, he got the job done.
The side-arming Vinson only needed to get one out in the first game in relief of Anderson, and he got a fly-out to preserve the 6-2 victory.
Anderson needed 112 pitches to make it through his 6 2/3 innings, and he said he “was pretty tired” when Smart made the move to Vinson.
Still, Anderson did his job effectively and limited a strong-hitting Stephens County team to just two seventh-inning runs.
In the second game, Vinson threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball to preserve the victory for Morgan.
“My starters do a great job, and I usually just have to get a few outs,” Vinson said.
Matthew Anderson has also pitched during the playoffs for the Grangers, and he threw four innings during a 5-2 win over Northside that clinched that series.
Vinson threw three scoreless innings to get the save in that game.
In the opening game of the Northside series, Ben Anderson threw the seven-inning complete game in the 5-3 victory.
In the first-round playoff series against Chestatee, Ben Anderson and Morgan each pitched shutouts in games shortened because of the run rule.
In six playoff games, Ben Anderson is 3-0, Morgan is 2-0, Matthew Anderson is 1-0, and Vinson has closed out three games and hasn’t allowed a run.
OF NOTE: For much more on the upcoming semifinal series between LaGrange and Marist, see the Tuesday and Wednesday sports sections.