Red-hot Grangers ready for state
By KEVIn ECKLEBERRY
The LaGrange Lady Grangers are hoping their hot streak continues into the state softball playoffs.
LaGrange (21-7) has won nine of its past 11 games and four in a row overall, and it will try to keep the good times rolling when it visits Oconee County today in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The series was originally going to begin on Wednesday, but it was moved up a day because of the threat of bad weather.
They’ll play a doubleheader beginning at 4:30 p.m., and if needed, a third and deciding game would be on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
The winner will advance to the round of 16, and from there it’s on to Columbus for the final eight.
LaGrange won all three of its games in the Region 5-AAAA tournament to secure the number three seed, and Oconee County is the second seed from Region 8-AAAA.
While many of LaGrange’s top players are underclassmen, there are five seniors who have been pivotal to the team’s success, whatever their role may be.
The seniors are Destiny Fitzpatrick, Hannah Karcher, Kadaysha Griffin, Shamiracle Mahone and Mani Brewer.
Those players were a part of the program when wins were harder to come by, and now they’re members of a team that could be poised to make an extended run at state.
“They’re really special to me,” LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath said. “They went through a time when we weren’t very good. They stuck through it, and they endured some of that. Some of the other young ones have never been through that. They’re very loyal, very hard-working kids. I’m just blessed to have them. And they accept their roles.”
Karcher, an outfielder who has started every game this season and is among the leading hitters, said all of the players are close.
“It’s not just softball,” she said. “We’re a family. We love each other so much.”
Fitzpatrick, who has been a staple at third base this season while providing some punch in the lineup with a batting average above .300, said it’s a roster filled with players where everyone does what’s best for the team.
“Everybody has their role, and they play their role,” Fitzpatrick said.
As for she and the other seniors, Fitzpatrick said “I feel like from the ninth grade, we’ve all grown.”
LaGrange heads into state with two outstanding pitchers, which is a luxury a lot of teams don’t have.
Sophomore Camden Smith has been terrific, posting a 12-4 record with a 1.94 earned run average.
Stone is 8-3 with a 3.56 ERA, and she filled in admirably during the region tournament when Smith was out with a knee injury.
Offensively, sophomore Abby Vanhoose has had a stellar season, leading the team with a .429 batting average, and she has 12 RBIs.
Stone is hitting .375 with 17 RBIs, and leadoff hitter Malone Aldridge has a .372 batting average, and she has nine RBIs and a team-leading 24 runs scored.
Katelynn Mobley, LaGrange’s catcher, is hitting .375, and she leads the team with eight doubles and is tied for the top spot with a pair of home runs.
Karcher is hitting .369 with 18 RBIs, and Jacee Marable has a .333 average with 15 RBIs.
Smith has a .324 batting average with two home runs, one of which was a walk-off grand slam during a key region win over Cartersville.
Griffin has also excelled at the plate with a .314 average, and Holly Lynn is hitting .354 in part-time duty.
LAGRANGE VS. OCONEE COUNTY
WHAT: Opening round of Class AAAA state playoffs
WHEN: Today, 4:30 p.m. (doubleheader); Thursday, 11 a.m. (if needed)
WHERE: Oconee County
ON THE LINE: Winner advances to round of 16 of Class AAAA state playoffs