Impressive performance for Grangers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
With their first-place showdown with the Troup Tigers looming, the LaGrange Grangers delivered a winning performance against the Callaway Cavaliers on Wednesday evening.
Sophomore right-hander Trevor Booton pitched six shutout innings to help LaGrange (16-8 overall) beat Callaway 7-1 while winning for the 10th time in 12 games.
LaGrange will look to keep the good times rolling when it hosts Troup on Friday with first place in Region 2-AAAA on the line.
While Troup is leading the way in the region with an 8-0 record, LaGrange is close behind at 7-1.
Troup will host LaGrange on Monday, and both teams will have two more region games next week as the regular season concludes.
“Today was huge for us leading into that stretch,” said Drew Eady, who was filling in as head coach with Donnie Branch unavailable. “That’s two games in a row where we’ve played well. The hitters executed, the pitching was good. All around, we did what we needed to do going into Friday. I feel good about it.”
Booton gave up eight hits and two walks against Callaway, but he did an outstanding job of damage control and didn’t allow any runs.
Booton has established himself as one of LaGrange’s top pitchers, and he came through once again against Callaway.
While senior Matthew Morgan will be on the mound for Friday’s game with Troup, Booton will likely get the call on Monday.
Senior infielder Landon Tucker has played behind Booton at third base and shortstop, and he said “it’s awesome to see a sophomore like that, his first year out, do what he’s been doing.”
Tucker was a starter and a key contributor when he was a sophomore, so he knows what Booton is going through.
“Me and Matthew (Morgan) have both been there,” Tucker said. “Our sophomore year, we were both a big part of the team and had to step up quick. He made the adjustment. He digs deep when he needs to.”
Another sophomore, Chase Williams, pitched the seventh inning, and after giving up a run, he retired the final two batters he faced to end the game.
Offensively, Turner Cook had two hits and two RBIs for LaGrange, and Seth Stargell and Morgan each had two hits.
Ty Medders, Tucker and Colton Esposito each had a hit and an RBI, and Kevin Neighbors drove in a run.
The Grangers have struggled offensively at times this season, but they’ve been swinging the bats better of late, and they’ve scored a combined 18 runs in wins over Landmark Christian and Callaway this week.
“I think it’s a big momentum lift,” Tucker said. “The second half (of the season), we’ll really come alive, especially at the plate. We weren’t hitting like we thought we would, and lately we’ve picked it up. Going into the Troup game, it’s big for us, to do what we’ve done lately.”
Callaway, meanwhile, used five different pitchers during Wednesday’s game.
Tucker Starling started and pitched two innings and gave up two runs, and after Jimmie Dukes struggled in the third inning and didn’t record an out, Brantin Swanson settled things down with a solid outing.
Swanson, who has recently returned to action after undergoing knee surgery late last year, worked two innings and didn’t give up an earned run.
Bryce Hubbard and Justin Moore each pitched one scoreless inning to finish it.
At the plate, Hubbard gave the Cavaliers their lone run with an RBI single in the seventh inning.
CJ Stephens, Moore and Andrew Locke each had two hits for Callaway, and Jacob Miles and Eli Freeman had one hit apiece.
The Cavaliers threatened in the top of the first inning, but Alford made a nice running catch in center field to end the inning and likely save a run.
The Cavaliers were in position to score again in the top of the second after Moore and Locke came through with back-to-back singles leading off the inning.
After a Kaden Rogers groundout that put runners on second and third, though, Booton recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
The Grangers broke through for a pair of runs in their half of the second inning.
Afte Turner Cook walked and Tucker reached on a bunt single, Zack Thompson put down a sacrifice bunt, and the Grangers were in business with men on second and third.
Esposito followed with an RBI single, and another run scored on a groundout by Neighbors.
The Grangers padded their lead with four more runs in the bottom of the third.
Stargell reached on an error leading off, and after Medders and Alford walked to load the bases, Cook’s base hit drove in two runs and gave the Grangers a 4-0 lead.
Tucker kept things going with an RBI groundout, and Thompson, who reached on a fielder’s choice, later scored on an error, and LaGrange led 6-0.
The Grangers completed their scoring with a single run in the fourth inning.
Morgan legged out on an infield single with one out, and he scored on an RBI single by Medders.
The Cavaliers, after leaving runners on base in every inning, finally put a run on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh.
Freeman was hit by a pitch leading off, and he later scored on RBI single by Hubbard.