Garner and Cockrell power Grangers to sweep of rivals Troup

Published 9:51 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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The LaGrange baseball team ended the regular season by coming from behind and beating rivals Troup 9-4 to complete a season sweep.

“Beating Troup always feels good, but we did not play up to our standard today,” LaGrange coach Donnie Branch said. 

While every player on the field played their part in the Grangers getting a win, the story comes down to two massive hits by the Grangers. The first was a three-run home run from Cole Gardner as he blasted the ball over the centerfield wall to give LaGrange a foothold in the game in the bottom of fourth, cutting Troup’s lead to 4-3. 

“I knew the team needed a big play there, and my coaches told me to keep it simple,” Garner said. “I had a good feeling about it when it left the bat. Being a part of this rivalry is exciting.”

Garner has seen the rivalry first hand as his father Craig Garner used to be the head baseball coach at Troup High but to play in front of the home fans at the Branch was a special feeling. The senior will be a one-and-done transfer for the Grangers but has made a major impact in his lone season as a Granger so far.

“He just knows how to play baseball,” Branch said. “He can play anywhere, but we need him to catch. He is a leader and has a ton of big hits for us this season.”

The second came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Gryson Cockrell delivered a monster two-out two RBI single to give the Grangers their first lead of the game at 6-4. Cockrell was the only Granger in the game with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs to keep up his hot streak to end the regular season.

“It feels great to get the winning RBI, but it is a total team effort,” Cockrell said. “After struggling at the start, we really came together to get the win.”

Cockrell missed a good portion of the Grangers playoff run a season ago with a devastating shoulder injury and missed some of the offseason workouts as well. Now, Cockrell has found his groove and is seeing the ball really well at the plate.

“Gryson has been huge for us,” Branch said. “He has a ton of big hits for us lately and after working through his injury to start the season he is playing good baseball for us.”

After dominating Troup in the opening game, the Grangers knew they had to weather a strong storm from the Tigers early on Tuesday and were able to do just that.

Troup got on the board first in the top of the third with an RBI double. 

The Tigers added to their lead with three runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 4-0 lead. Tripp Cummings scored on a wild pitch for the first run of the inning. Ty Medders singled later in the inning to drive in two more runs.

LaGrange never wavered and answered back right away with the Garner home run and the Cockrell single in the following inning. LaGrange added an additional run in the fifth when Seth Stargell scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-4 LaGrange. 

The Grangers were not done adding runs there as Robbie’s Parker hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the home team a three-run lead. LaGrange added an eighth and ninth run in the game when Tanner Langley and Preston Presley reached home on two separate errors.

Trevor Booton got the start on the mound for the Grangers and went six innings in which he allowed six hits and no earned runs on 11 strikeouts.

“Defensively, we were really, really bad, but Trevor was able to pitch through it and keep us in the game,” Branch said.

Trey Cook, Garner and Parker each had a hit for the Grangers.

Demetrius Hardnett got the starting nod for Troup and was solid in his 4 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits and four earned runs on eight strikeouts. 

“I thought their starting pitcher, Hardnett, did a tremendous job,” Branch said. 

The Tigers used a platoon of pitchers in relief with Medders, Cummings, Jake Perry and Carson Spears all seeing time on the mound.

Troup finished the season 17-11 overall and fifth in the region to miss the playoffs for the first time in at least 15 years.

LaGrange will be riding into the postseason with a second consecutive region championship in tow. 

“This was a really tough region, and I think it is a huge accomplishment to win the region championship,” Branch said. “To win the region two years in a row is hard to do.”

LaGrange will head into the playoffs with a record of 22-8 and has won six in a row and 14 of its last 15 games. The Grangers will host Islands or Burke County when the playoffs start next week at The Branch.

“There is no doubt that our fan base makes a difference,” Branch said. “Our atmosphere here is different from a lot of places. Hopefully,we will get this place packed out and rocking for the playoffs.”