• 55°

LaGrange earns trip to Columbus

By kevin eckleberry

Daily News

Next stop, Columbus

The LaGrange Lady Grangers swept past Shaw in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs to advance to the eight-team state finals in Columbus.

This will be LaGrange’s first trip to Columbus since 2004 when it finished third in the state under former head coach Dewey Lee.

The current head coach is Gabby Heath, and she’s thrilled to see the effort the players have put in translate into success on the field.

Heath said she’s proud of the players, “specifically because of how hard they’ve worked. Sometimes we work hard and we don’t reap the benefit. But this is a great life lesson. It is possible if you work hard and get better, that you can be successful.”

Shaw didn’t present much of a challenge to LaGrange during Wednesday’s doubleheader.

LaGrange won the first game 9-1 before completing the sweep with a 9-0 victory in game two.

Camden Smith was dominant on the mound, holding Shaw to four hits and one unearned run in two games, and the LaGrange offense banged out 22 hits in the two games combined.

It was a complete effort by a LaGrange team that has moved a step closer to the program’s first-ever state championship.

“We have been working really hard to get where we are now,” said Kirsten Williams, LaGrange’s third baseman.

After finishing second in Region 5-AAAA, LaGrange (24-11) topped Denmark in a hard-fought first-round state series.

The teams split the first two games before LaGrange breezed to a 9-2 victory in game two.

There was no suspense in the Shaw series.

The Lady Grangers took control with four runs in the bottom of the first inning of game one, and they never looked back.

Heath believes a key to the team’s success is the willingness of every player to accept her role, whether it’s as a pinch runner, a defensive specialist, or as a starter who plays every inning of every game.

“If you embrace where you are, and what your skills are, and how you can help, that allows us to have a positivity that goes through the whole program,” Heath said. “It’s contagious.”

Shaw, the number four team from Region 1-AAAA, beat Region 3-AAAA champion Burke County to advance to the second round.

Hoping to pull off another state-playoff upset, Shaw was instead overmatched by a LaGrange team that had everything working.

In the first game that ended in the bottom of the sixth inning because of the run rule, Camden Smith was nearly untouchable.

The  junior pitcher held Shaw to two hits and one unearned run in six innings, and she had 11 strikeouts and no walks.

Jacee Marable powered the LaGrange offense with two hits and three RBIs, and she had a two-run triple in the first inning.

Malone Aldridge had two hits, including a double, and she drove in a run.

Smith and Williams each had a hit and two RBIs, Macee Stone and Holly Lynn each had two hits with doubles, and Abby Vanhoose scored two runs.

In game two, LaGrange was leading 4-0 when it pushed five runs across in the fifth inning to seize a 9-0 lead.

The game ended after the top of the sixth inning because of the run rule.

Once again Smith was sensational, limiting Shaw to two hits and no runs with four strikeouts and zero walks.

Aldridge, hitting in the leadoff spot, had three hits with a double, and she scored three runs.

Lynn, who played every inning of both games at catcher, had two doubles and three RBI.

Marable had two hits, including an RBI double, Vanhoose had a hit and two RBIs, and Madison Dennis had a hit and an RBI.

Williams had a double, Kaylee Bryant and Smith both had hits, and Stone had an RBI.

OF NOTE: For more photos, check out Facebook.com/LDNSports