LaGrange hosting state series

Published 3:32 am Tuesday, October 8, 2019


Daily News

After losing a heart-breaker in the first round of the state softball playoffs a year ago, the LaGrange Lady Grangers will look to take the next step this season.

In a 2018 first-round matchup, LaGrange and Oconee County split the first two games of their best-of-three series, setting up a winner-take-all game three.

LaGrange had a 4-0 lead in that decisive game, but home-standing Oconee County rallied to win 5-4 in eight innings.

LaGrange is hoping for a happier ending this season.

LaGrange (20-10), after finishing second in Region 5-AAAA, will get to host this year’s first-round series after going on the road last season.

LaGrange’s opponent will be Denmark, which finished third in Region 7-AAAA.

They’ll play a doubleheader on Tuesday at 5 p.m., and if needed, a third-and-deciding game would be played on Wednesday.

Denmark is led by David Smart, who enjoyed a successful stint as LaGrange High’s head baseball coach that included a trip to the state semifinals.

It’s been a successful season for LaGrange, which lost to Central-Carroll in last week’s region-championship series.

Before dropping those two games, LaGrange had won nine of its previous 10 games, and it closed the regular season on a six-game winning streak.

The Lady Grangers struggled at times early in the season, and they dropped their first two region games, but they’ve been rolling since then.

LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath felt the turning point came in a tournament in Carrollton.

After losing to East Coweta in the first game of that tournament, LaGrange won three in a row, and it hasn’t looked back since.

“We lost to East Coweta 11-0, and you could just see the defeat in our body language,” LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath said. “We had a really good conversation after that and talked about our mental state, and then after that game I think we went 16-2. I asked them physically what had changed from that game from East Coweta to the next game, and they said nothing had changed. It was all our mental state. They’ve really flipped a switch.”

LaGrange finished the regular season with a 9-3 region record to earn a spot opposite Central-Carroll in the region-championship series.

An experienced Central-Carroll team swept a doubleheader to win the region title.

“Their seniors that they have on that team, that was their fourth region championship that they’ve been in,” Heath said. “You talk about experience. They were used to that.”

Despite that disappointment, the Lady Grangers have played exceptional softball over the past month, and they’ve been especially strong at their home park.

LaGrange’s last home loss, in fact, came on Aug. 14 when it lost to Harris County.

As has been the case in every big game this season, LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath will put the ball in the hands of junior pitcher Camden Smith.

Smith, one of the state’s top pitchers, is 15-4 with a 2.46 earned run average, and she has 167 strikeouts in 136.2 innings.

Offensively, the Panthers have been getting it done as well, averaging nearly six runs per game.

Jacee Marable leads the Panthers with a .391 batting average, and she has 11 doubles and 17 RBIs.

Abby Vanhoose is having a big season with a .371 batting average, and she leads the team in hits (36), RBIs (25) and Stolen bases (30).

Holly Lynn, who has played most of the innings at catcher, is hitting .364 with 22 RBIs and a team-leading four home runs

Malone Aldridge is hitting .352 with seven doubles and 23 RBIs, and she has 27 stolen bases.

Madison Dennis has a .337 batting average with 23 RBIs and a team-leading 30 runs to go along with 23 stolen bases, and Camden Smith is hitting .333 with two home runs and 16 RBIs.

Kirsten Williams is hitting .273 with 12 RBIs, and Macee Stone has a .268 batting average with five doubles and six RBIs.

Denmark is in its second season with David Smart at the helm.

The 2018 season was a struggle for Denmark, which went 3-17, but the team has reversed its fortunes this year.

“I’ve gotten used to them, they’ve gotten used to me,” Smart said earlier this season. “I think we’re better on all facets of the game. The fact that we’ve had a year to play and a year to mature has helped a whole lot.”