LaGrange College baseball team wins sixth straight conference title

Published 10:54 pm Saturday, April 29, 2023

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Needing to take both games after dropping the opener, No. 19/22 LaGrange (27-13, 13-5 CCS) rallied from a five-run deficit in the opener and blew the nightcap open late to sweep Huntingdon (23-12, 9-7 CCS) 14-8 and 10-2 and claim the inaugural regular season championship of the Collegiate Conference of the South (CCS) in an NCAA Division III baseball doubleheader on Saturday, April 29.

Going back to their time in the USA South, it is the Panthers’ sixth straight title, be it regular season or tournament. They won their last five tournaments in their previous league, earning championships from 2017-19 and 2021-22. The first of those would also be a regular season title with the none being awarded in 2020 due to the cancellation of the remainder of the season.

With the inaugural CCS regular season championship comes the right to host the entire postseason tournament. That will be held in LaGrange at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium from May 3-7. Stay tuned to for full details on the 2023 Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament.


Needing just one win to clinch the regular season title, the Hawks looked like they were well on their way in the opener as they scored five runs on as many hits and an error. They would open with four straight singles, the last coupled with a throwing error for the first two runs. They would pick up the third on a balk and the next two with a single from Jabez Sampson.

Down 5-0, the Panthers would come right back as senior outfielder Rhett Mixon (Loganville, Ga.) singled with one out and freshman outfielder Curt Bonner (Cartersville, Ga.) belted a two-run shot over the left field fence to cut it to 5-2. They would then get closer in the second as they plated a third run on a passed ball before the Hawks got that one back in the top of the third with a leadoff single by Daniel Patton and a run scoring double to left center by Noah Phillips.

From there, though, it would be nearly all LaGrange as they scored 11 runs and rapped out 10 hits to go up 14-7 before closing out the six-run victory. Leading the charge would be a fourth inning two-RBI triple by sophomore outfielder Jorge Fragoso (East Point, Ga.) and two-RBI singles by senior third baseman Joe Ruth (Chiefland, Fla.) and Bonner.

Matthew Robinson led Huntingdon with two RBIs as part of a 3-for-5, one run day while Sampson had two RBIs. Noah Phillips was 2-for-5 with a double and RBI and Cade Morgan was the same at the plate with a run and RBI. Daniel Phillips was 2-for-4 with three runs to round out the offense and Michael Driver went 3.1 innings on the hill, allowing seven earned runs and three walks to take the loss and fall to 3-2.

Bonner would fuel the offense for the Panthers with a homerun, four RBIs and a pair of runs as part of a 3-for-5 day and Ruth was 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Freshman shortstop Jackson McElvy (Kennesaw, Ga.) went 2-for-4 with an RBI, two walks and three runs and Fragoso was 1-for-4 but with a triple, walk, two RBIs and two runs. Junior second baseman Adam Dorn (Canton, Ga.) added a 3-for-5 day that included a run and RBI and Mixon chipped in with three runs, two walks and an RBI.

On the hill freshman pitcher Eduardo Peralta (David, Chiriqui, Panama) ran his record to a perfect 7-0 but had to work to get there. He threw 5.2 innings but gave up six earned runs while striking out five. Pinning that down would be junior Slade James (Phenix City, Ala.), who threw the final 3.1 innings, allowing just one run to earn the save.


Having put themselves in position to have a shot at the regular season championship, the Panthers would quickly find themselves down 1-0 but wouldn’t stay there long.

In the top of the first Robinson would double down the right field line to score Daniel Phillips only to see back-to-back singles by McElvy and Mixon helped set up Ruth for an RBI single to right. Dorn would then reach on a fielder’s choice but Bonner would come home to put LaGrange up 2-1 after one.

From there it would turn into a pitcher’s duel as the clubs combined for four hits and no runs over the next two and a half frames. That would change in the bottom of the fourth as senior designated hitter Jared Aldridge (Carrollton, Ga.) led off with a double down the left field line, moved to third on a fielder’s choice and came home on a one-out bunt single by McElvy to make it 3-1.

It would stay that way until the top of the sixth when back-to-back hit by pitches put the Hawks in business. Robinson then reached on a one-out error, a play that also scored Daniel Phillips from third to cut it to 3-2. Two straight singles in the top of the seventh then put the tying run in scoring position but three straight strikeouts ended that threat in short order.

That would be key as the Panthers would take that run right back in the home half of the seventh. Senior catcher David Smigelski (Canton, Ga.) got plunked to lead off the frame, moved to second on a walk, third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice bunt by freshman first baseman Brody Hollingsworth (Powder Springs, Ga.).

A two-run lead in the eighth of a pitcher’s duel is daunting enough but it would go from that to a laugher as LaGrange flexed their muscle and hammered out six runs on six hits in the bottom of that inning to put it out of reach. That inning would feature a Dorn double down the right field line that cleared the bases for three RBIs and took the wind out of the Hawks’ sails as they went 1-2-3 in the ninth to close out the 10-2 decision.

Huntingdon would manage just seven hits and Robinson would headline the offense with a 2-for-4 day that included a double and RBI. Innes Mackay was also 2-for-4 and Daniel Phillips scored a pair of runs. Hall Billings started and went four innings, allowing three runs and that would be enough to suffer the loss and fall to 3-3.

Dorn anchored the Panthers’ offense, going 2-for-4 with a double, run, walk and four RBIs and McElvy went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. Aldridge raked a double and went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs and Ruth added two RBIs and a run as part of a 2-for-5 day. Mixon helped to set the table as he went 3-for-6 with a pair of runs, as did Bonner at 2-for-4 with two runs and a walk.

Senior pitcher Baley Coleman (Hiram, Ga.) delivered a clutch performance, hurling 6.1 innings and allowing just one earned run, seven hits and a walk while striking out four. That would earn him the win, moving him to 4-3 – something due in large part to a stellar relief outing from freshman Eli Folds (Cullman, Ala.). The latter would come in with two on and one out in the seventh and struck out the next two as part of his 2.2 scoreless innings that netted him his third save.


The Panthers will now host the inaugural Collegiate Conference of the South Tournament from May 3-7. Full details will be available on entering the week.