Seniors lead way for Warriors
Published 12:48 am Friday, May 4, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For the past few years, the LaGrange Academy baseball team has been locked into the second spot in the region.
The Warriors have come close to earning that number one spot, but they’ve been unable to reach the top of the mountain.
That changed this spring.
LaGrange Academy went 4-1 in GISA Region 1-AA, and it finished one game ahead of Brandon Hall to win the region title.
Leading the way are a group of five seniors who have helped the Warriors climb to the top of the region, and now they’ll try to help the team make some noise in the state playoffs.
LaGrange Academy will host Thomas Jefferson in a best-of-three series, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals.
They’ll play a doubleheader today at 2 p.m., and if needed, a third and deciding game would be played on Saturday.
The team’s five seniors are John Whitlow, Evan Smith, Mason Brown, Daniel Swann and Brent Kardoes.
Four of those seniors will be on the field today, while Whitlow will be out of action with a finger injury, although he hopes to be back for a potential second-round series.
“Hopefully I’ll get the stiches out Monday or Tuesday,” Whitlow said. “I’m ready to get back out there. Hopefully they can get stuff done Friday and I can come back.”
Whitlow has been a part of those teams that past few years that finished second, and he was glad to be able to take the next step this season.
“It’s awesome,” Whitlow said. “Being able to come back and be dominant baseball, it’s huge. It really means a lot to me.”
The Warriors opened the season with four straight losses, but they’ve been rolling since then.
LaGrange Academy finished the regular season with a 13-3 win over Flint River that assured it of at least a tie for first place.
When Brandon Hall lost to Flint River, LaGrange Academy had the region crown.
“We got down at the start of the season 0-4, and just seeing the fight come out of everybody really shows a lot,” said Swann, who is in his first season at LaGrange Academy after transferring from Troup.
Brent Kardoes, who is also a newcomer to LaGrange Academy after transferring from Troup, said “we weren’t worried” after the slow start.
“We just had to get in the swing of things,” he said. “And we played some good teams at the start.”
Mason Brown has been a part of the second-place teams in recent years, and he’s glad to be a member of the team that snapped the region-championship drought.
“It’s been a lot of fun, especially since the ninth, 10th and 11th-grade years we came in second,” Brown said.
While it was smooth sailing after the slow start, Brown said it took everyone to figure out how to play together.
“At the beginning of the year a lot of the guys got down, but toward the end we started winning games, and everybody just gelled together,” Brown said.
Evan Smith, who has been a part of the varsity program since he was a freshman, believes the early struggles were a positive.
“Having the experience of losing those games, we were able to bond,” Smith said. “We knew we weren’t unbeatable. That just helped us. Losing gives you experience.”
The Warriors appear to have everything necessary to make a deep playoff run.
The Warriors have a deep pitching staff, an outstanding defense, and a balanced lineup.
Now, it’s a matter of going out and making it happen.
Kardoes said the players will take the same laid-back approach they have all season.
“I just want to have fun,” he said. “We’re not worried about anything. We’ll just go out and play baseball.”