Pack The Branch: LaGrange readies for round of 16 doubleheader on Saturday

Published 8:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2023

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Pack The Branch.

That is the LaGrange baseball team’s motto heading into Saturday’s round of 16 doubleheader against old region foe Shaw — a team the Grangers swept in last season’s two regular season matchups, 8-1 and 4-0. In fact, the Grangers have won the last six meetings between the two teams with the last loss against the Raiders coming back on March 15, 2016 (11-8).

Shaw is no longer a pushover and after years of hovering around .500 and just sneaking in the playoffs, the Raiders have put together one of the best seasons in program history this year. The Raiders have not sniffed the 20 win mark since going 21-8 back in 2008 on their way to a quarterfinal appearance in the AAA state playoffs. 

Shaw had not been able to replicate that sort of success until this year when the team went 21-10 heading into Saturday’s matchup. The Raiders have won three in a row and six of their last seven games heading into their series with LaGrange, including a comfortable two game sweep in the opening round of the playoffs against Spalding (3-1 and 12-2).

The Granger pitchers will have to be wary of John Roland of the Raiders, who is leading the team offensively by hitting .441 with 31 RBIs. It is not a solo effort, but he is the one Raider bat that sticks out among the rest. 

LaGrange will not be concerned with its recent history with Shaw, the only history the Grangers care about is making this a historical finish to one of the best seasons in program history. The Grangers are rolling heading into Saturday’s matchup, winning eight in a row and losing just once in their last 17 games — a 10-1 loss to 6A Marist. 

LaGrange brushed aside Burke County in the opening round of the playoffs in just two games, winning 14-1 and 10-2 to cruise to the round of 16. 

This year’s LaGrange team is spearheaded by a three-headed monster in the pitching room. Trevor Booton, a senior Auburn commit, is the ace of the staff and went 10-0 on the season with a 2.22 ERA. Fellow senior Trey Cook will likely get the start in game one and has put together a terrific final season with the Grangers, going 5-3 with a 3.22 ERA. The real wildcard is sophomore Caden Wood, who pitched the Grangers to three straight game three victories a season ago in the playoffs. Wood did not draw as difficult of assignments as the other two in the regular season but was clinical when called upon, going 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA this season. 

The Granger bats are just as potent as the pitching staff with senior Preston Pressley leading the way by hitting .423 on the season. First-year Granger Cole Garner, a senior, leads the team in RBIs with 31 while hitting .366 from the plate. The Raiders will have to try their best to keep Seth Stargell off base as his on base percentage is .544, which combined with his impressive speed and base running ability has allowed him to steal 32 bases this season, 10 more than the next highest on the team. 

The Grangers offense has a ton of versatility and even has some real power in the lineup with Cooper Stephens, who hit seven of the team’s 17 home runs this season. 

The LaGrange baseball team has all the tools to equal last year’s special run to the state championship series and even has the tools to surpass the 2022 team. Saturday will be another test as the Grangers are set to throw out the first pitch at 1 p.m. and look to earn a spot in the state quarterfinals for a second straight season.