Grangers prevail in game three
Published 1:24 pm Friday, April 26, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They were up to the challenge.
With their season on the line, the LaGrange Grangers outlasted Stephens County 5-3 on Thursday in the third and final game of their Class AAAA state-playoff series.
The teams split a doubleheader on Wednesday, setting up Thursday’s winner-take-all game.
Trailing 1-0, the Grangers went on top with four runs in the bottom of the third inning, and they had the lead the rest of the way.
“Winning a game three is about your starting pitcher, and your mental toughness,” said Donnie Branch, LaGrange’s head coach. “Charles (Crawford) did a good job, and we stayed focused through the good times, and the bad times. We’ve been preaching that all year, and it’s good to see us do it when it counted the most.”
Crawford got the complete-game victory for LaGrange, and he worked around seven hits, three walks, and three errors to hold a potent Stephens County offense in check.
In the seventh and final inning, Stephens County got a leadoff walk, but Crawford retired the final three batters he faced.
“He probably didn’t have his best stuff, but that’s even more impressive,” Branch said. “He got it done. He made the big pitches. And it came down to their best hitter (Davis Swenson) the last at-bat of the game. We’d struggled to get him out, and he got a groundball when he needed it.”
While the Grangers had a few defensive miscues, they also made some outstanding plays in the field.
Branch said that third baseman Landon Tucker “made two or three really big plays defensively.”
The Grangers did enough offensively in support of Crawford.
Senior catcher Trent Bailey, who had a big series, had a two-run double during the four-run third inning. Brant Williams had two hits from the number nine spot in the order, Will Alford had a double, and Mason Green had a sacrifice fly to give the Grangers a key insurance run in the fourth inning.
“Stephens County was good,” Branch said. “That was a very good baseball team, and they had won seven straight coming in, so they were hot. It was a toe-to-toe, every pitch. Their kids were good, and they battled. So it was tough.”
LaGrange will visit Blessed Trinity in the second round of the playoffs, and they’ll play a doubleheader on Wednesday.
If needed, a third game would be played on Thursday.
The winner of that series will play either Woodward Academy or Upson-Lee in the quarterfinals.