Walk-off win for Grangers
Published 11:35 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Trent Bailey’s walk-off hit gave the LaGrange Grangers a thrilling 3-2 home win over the rival Troup Tigers on Wednesday.
The Grangers found themselves trailing 3-0 in the second inning, but they rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie it before winning it in in the seventh inning.
The game-winning rally began when Brant Williams reached on an infield single, and he made it to second when the throw to first went awry.
After Walton Lanier was intentionally walked, Mason Green’s infield base hit loaded the bases with one out.
After taking a strike, Bailey drove the 0-1 pitch into left field to bring Williams home with the game-winning run.
“Right there, all I was thinking was put the ball in play,” said Bailey, LaGrange’s senior catcher. “That’s all I was thinking. There’s one out, the bases are loaded. All I had to do was put a ball in play, and that’s what I was trying to do.”
Bailey’s hit made a winner of Jake Cardwell, who was phenomenal in relief.
Cardwell came into the game in the top of the third inning with two men on and one out, and Troup was already ahead by three.
Cardwell got out of that jam with no runs scoring, and he ended up throwing 4 2/3 hitless innings, and he had five strikeouts and just one walk.
“Without Jake, we wouldn’t have been in the game,” Bailey said. “Jake came in right after Charles and did phenomenal. That put us in a position to be in the game.”
LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch let Cardwell know that he was likely going to pitch at some point in the game.
Turns out, that moment came a bit earlier than expected, but Cardwell was ready for the moment.
“I came (into the game) knowing I was going to pitch,” Cardwell said. “My mentality is whenever I get on the mound, if I do for my team, they’ll do for me, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Cardwell isn’t the hardest thrower on the team, but he finds ways to get outs.
“I don’t have a lot of velocity, so you’ve got to find a way to make it work,” Cardwell said. “I aim my pitches very good, and hopefully they’ll hit grounders.”
Cardwell was rarely used last season, but he has been one of LaGrange’s most reliable pitchers this spring.
“He pitched about four innings last year,” Branch said. “I think he’s thrown 45 innings this year, and his ERA is one-something. He was the star of the show.”
It was a big win for the Grangers, who haven’t beaten the rival Tigers in a while.
“None of my kids have ever beaten them,” Branch said. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. So it was good to kind of breakthrough. (The Tigers have) been doing well, and we want to be where we’re in the conversation.”
The Grangers finished third in Region 5-AAAA with a 7-5 record, and they’ll be on the road next week for the opening round of the state playoffs.
While it wasn’t the way the Tigers wanted to close their region schedule, the loss didn’t impact their position.
Troup finished second in the region with a 9-3 record, and it will host a first-round series next week.
Cartersville won the region with a 10-1 record.
“We feel pretty good about where we’re sitting,” Troup head coach Craig Garner said. “I like our bracket as much as anybody’s.”
The Tigers appeared to be in good shape early in Wednesday’s game after surging to a three-run lead.
Cooper Doughman, Troup’s senior catcher, gave Troup the lead with a solo home run in the top of the first inning.
The Tigers kept it going in the second inning, pushing two more runs across to build a 3-0 lead.
Colton Webb got things started with a base hit, and he moved to second on Cade Garner’s sacrifice bunt.
After Ethan Morton’s single put men on first and third, Luke Purnell came through with an RBI double.
Next up was Grayson Garner, and he delivered an RBI single to give the Tigers a three-run cushion.
Charles Crawford, LaGrange’s starting pitcher, got the final two outs of the second inning to keep the deficit from expanding.
The Tigers threatened to pad their lead in the third inning when Colby Williams singled and Webb walked, but they were unable to push a run across against Cardwell.
It remained a 3-0 game until the Grangers tied it in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring three runs despite not getting a ball out of the infield.
Matthew Morgan was hit by a pitch leading off, and Cole Crawford walked to put men on first and second.
Cardwell attempted to bunt Morgan and Crawford over, but first baseman Colby Williams pounced on the ball and whipped a throw to third for the force out.
With runners on first and second and one out, number nine hitter Brant Williams put down a perfectly-executed bunt for a hit, and the bases were loaded.
Following a pitching change, with freshman Daniel Martin taking the mound to replace Jackson Knox, Lanier took a 3-2 pitch out of the strike zone for a walk, and Crawford trotted home with LaGrange’s first run.
Next up was Mason Green, and his hard-hit grounder deflected off of the second baseman’s glove, and Cardwell and Williams both came in to score, and the game was tied.
“Mason Green does what Mason Green does. He’s clutch,” Branch said.
Cardwell set the Tigers down in order in the next two innings, and the Grangers won it in their half of the seventh.