Cougars bring home the championship

Published 1:38 am Saturday, May 18, 2019


Daily News

The confidence, the belief that the day would be theirs, never wavered.

In the fifth inning of Thursday’s state-championship game against Peachtree Academy, the Lafayette Christian School Cougars found themselves in a 6-2 hole.

Despite facing a significant deficit against a team that had won two consecutive state titles, the Cougars stayed upbeat, knowing that there was plenty of time to turn the situation around.

“It was really just not letting ourselves get too down,” said team member Nathan Karvelas. “We did a good job of not letting bad things get to us. When we saw opportunities, we just capitalized.”

Indeed they did.

After pushing a pair of runs across in the fifth inning, the Cougars surged ahead with four runs in the bottom of the sixth.

When Jacob Karvelas retired Peachtree Academy in order in the top of the seventh, the celebration was on.

The Cougars, in their second season as a varsity baseball team, were the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association Division II-A state champions.

“Nobody to a man thought we were out of the game at any point,” said Ben Jackson, Lafayette Christian’s head coach. “And that’s hard. You can’t really coach that. That’s in ‘em.”

Lafayette Christian won the first game of the series 4-3 on Tuesday, but Peachtree Academy bounced back to win game two 1-0 later that day.

Two days later the teams were back at Troup High for a winner-take-all game three.

It was tied 2-2 when Peachtree Academy exploded for four runs in the top of the fifth inning, seemingly taking control of the game.

The Cougars came right back with two runs to cut their deficit in half, though, before grabbing the lead in the sixth inning.

After scoring two runs on an error, Cason Firth drove the ball to the outfield fence for an RBI triple, and the Cougars had the lead.

Nathan Karvelas followed with an RBI single to give the Cougars a two-run cushion.

Jacob Karvelas, after getting a groundout and a strikeout in the top of the seventh, made a nice grab on a hard-hit liner for the third and final out, and the celebration was on.

“They’ve won it two years in a row,” Nathan Karvelas said. “They thought we were going to win it. Our plan going in was, we don’t have anything to lose. Let’s just go put it all on the field.”

Jacob Karvelas pithced 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Tanner Jackson, and he held Peachtree Academy hitless and scoreless while striking out three.

Nathan Karvelas had three of the Cougars’ nine hits with two RBIs, and Adam Barnett had two hits and three runs scored.

Tanner Jackson had a hit and two RBIs while walking twice, Firth had the go-ahead RBI triple and two walks, Jacob Karvelas had a hit and a walk, and Ben Ogle had a hit.

The victory capped a special season for the Cougars, who had a feeling from the get-go that they could accomplish some big things.

“We set a goal our first practice to win a state championship, but that far out, it’s hard to know,” Nathan Karvelas said. “As the season progressed, we started winning region games, and we went undefeated in the region.”

While it was mostly smooth sailing this season, Lafayette Christian did lose a pair of games to Arlington Christian in April, and that was a bit of an eye-opener.

“We almost hit a lull at the end of the season,” Nathan Karvelas said. “We lost a doubleheader, and it kind of set us back a little bit. But we realized from that that we’re not unstoppable. We kind of used that.”

The Cougars won eight of their next nine games, and now they’ve got a state-championship trophy to display in the school

“On the first day of practice, and a couple of kids said it was to win a state championship,” Jackson said. “We stopped them and I said, let’s win the first game. We even took it back a step further and said let’s get better every day at practice. Let’s make that our first goal. And then, let’s go win the first game, win region, and we’ll let the best take care of itself.”

The Cougars’ best was plenty good enough, as the rest of the teams in GICAA found out, including a squad that had won back-to-back state titles.

“They’ve won it two years in a row,” Nathan Karvelas said. “They thought we were going to win it. Our plan going in was, we don’t have anything to lose. Let’s just go put it all on the field.”

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