Grangers hit road for playoff opener
Published 11:58 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was a special spring.
After finishing second in Region 5-AAAA last season, the LaGrange Grangers made it all the way to the state semifinals before losing to Marist.
LaGrange will begin what it hopes will be another extended playoff stay on Friday when it kicks off a three-game series against Northwest Whitfield.
The series was originally going to start on Thursday, but the decision was made to push it back a day because of the threat of rain.
So they’ll play a doubleheader on Friday at 4:30 p.m., and if needed, a third and deciding game would be on Saturday.
LaGrange heads into the playoffs with momentum.
While the Grangers (12-19 overall) have a losing record, they went 8-4 in the region to finish third.
LaGrange closed the regular season with back-to-back 5-4 wins over Sandy Creek and Chapel Hill, and it will look to keep it going against Northwest Whitfield (15-14 overall), which finished second in Region 6-AAAA with a 12-6 record.
“They’ve grown up a lot right in front of your eyes,” LaGrange head coach David Smart said. “That’s rewarding to see. And we still feel like our best baseball is ahead of us.”
Facing a brutal early-season schedule, the Grangers struggled to find wins.
After losing to McIntosh on March 10, LaGrange was 3-13.
Once the region schedule rolled around, everything changed for the Grangers.
Senior John Morgan, the staff ace, threw a complete-game shutout as LaGrange opened region play with a 1-0 win over Cedartown.
LaGrange continued to play well throughout its region schedule, with its only losses coming to Cartersville and Troup, two of the state’s top-ranked teams.
Smart believes those challenging early-season games have helped prepare LaGrange for the tough road ahead.
“That’s why we do the things we do,” Smart said. “It puts us in a good position. We talk a lot about how, everything we do is geared toward this time of year.”
While the Grangers have played plenty of high-level opponents, Smart knows playoff baseball is a different animal.
“It’s a little bit of different baseball now,” Smart said. “Everything matters. Every pitch matters. Every 90 feet matters. There’s a heightened awareness.”
Morgan has been LaGrange’s most consistent pitcher this season, and he was on the winning end of 1-0 wins over Columbus and Cedartown.
Other men who could see time on the mound in the Northwest series are Charles Crawford, Ben Stogner, Cole Freeman, Brant Williams and Walton Lanier.
Offensively, the Grangers have been getting it done down the stretch, scoring a combined 22 runs in their previous four games.
In a 5-4 win over Chapel Hill to end the regular season, nine different players had hits, including every-day players Charles Crawford, Cole Freeman, Will Alford, Seth Prather, Ben Farrar and Seth Prather.
PJ Thompson, Brant Williams and Ben Stogner also had hits in that game.
If LaGrange beats Northwest, it would play either Chestatee or Jefferson in the second round.