Baseball teams ready for state journey
Published 9:26 pm Sunday, April 22, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The chase for a championship begins this week for hundreds of baseball teams spread across the state’s seven classifications.
Among the teams hoping to make some noise in the upcoming GHSA playoffs are the Callaway Cavaliers, LaGrange Grangers and Troup Tigers, who will all get the state journey started on Thursday.
While Troup and Callaway will be at home for the opening round, LaGrange will hit the road.
Callaway, after winning the Region 5-AA championship, will host B.E.S.T. Academy, the number four seed from Region 6-AA.
Troup, the number two seed from Region 5-AAAA, will be at home against Ridgeland, the third seed from Region 6-AAAA.
LaGrange, which finished third in Region 5-AAAA, will visit Northwest Whitfield, the second seed from Region 6-AAAA.
The teams will play doubleheaders on Thursday, and if needed, a third and deciding game would be played on Friday.
For Callaway, it was another highly successful season under head coach Dusty Hubbard.
The Cavaliers (20-9) have won back-to-back region championships, and they reached 20 wins with a home win over the Central-Carroll Lions last week.
The Cavaliers had to replace some critical players from last year’s team, and Hubbard said the journey wasn’t always a smooth one.
“They had to be taught,” Hubbard said. “The coaches have done a great job. It’s been a battle. There’ve been some tough days at practice. But they’re picking it up.”
Hubbard added that “there are a lot of kids on this team that are really head strong, and sometimes you have to prove that their way isn’t the best way. Not only have we gotten better, but our younger guys have gotten better, which will help you down the road.”
If Callaway gets past B.E.S.T, it will be at home again for the second round against Rockmart or Rabun County.
Troup finished tied for first in Region 5-AAAA, but Cartersville earned the top seed based on the tie-breaker, which was run differential in the two head-to-head matchups.
Cartersville won the first game 5-0, and Troup won the rematch 5-1.
It was the third consecutive season Troup either won a region title outright, or finished tied for first place.
With Friday’s doubleheader sweep of East Coweta and Newnan, Troup improved to 23-7 and completed one of the best regular seasons in the history of the program.
The Tigers head into the playoffs on a five-game winning streak, and they’ve scored 10 or more runs in four of those games.
In Friday’s games, Troup scored a combined 28 runs to close the regular season with a flourish.
“We’ve got the talent,” said Brantly Robinson, one of Troup’s three seniors along with Ryan Bliss and Kenly Bridwell. “We’ve just got to put it together.”
First up for Troup will be Ridgeland (11-17), which has an overall losing record but fared well in region play to earn a playoff spot.
If Troup gets by Ridgeland, it would set up a marquee matchup with Blessed Trinity (28-2), which is ranked first in Class AAAA according to Georgia Dugout Preview.
That series would be at Blessed Trinity in Roswell.
LaGrange (12-19 overall) has a losing record, but it went 8-4 in Region 5-AAAA to earn a playoff spot.
First up will be Northwest Whitfield (15-14), which finished second to Heritage-Catoosa in Region 6-AAAA.
“We’re hoping we’re going to play our best baseball,” LaGrange head coach David Smart said. “Anything can happen. We’ll get prepared for next week, and go up there and give it everything we’ve got.”
A year ago, LaGrange finished second in the region and made it all the way to the state semifinals before losing to eventual state-champion Marist.
This is a mostly new group this season, but the Grangers have been playing well the past few weeks, so they could potentially be poised to make another playoff run.
“We all have heart, we all love each other like brothers,” said LaGrange senior Cole Freeman. “I think we can have a good run.”