Strong pitching from Booton, Cook sees LaGrange book a spot in the AAAA state championship
Published 9:14 pm Saturday, May 13, 2023
With their uniformly bleached blonde hair shimmering under the Georgia sun, the LaGrange baseball team put together two sensational performances at The Branch on Saturday to sweep Lovett and book their second consecutive trip to the AAAA state championship. The team is riding high, winning 14 straight and feeling confident heading into next Friday’s showdown for a state title.
“It is really, really hard to get to one state championship, so to get there two years in a row says a lot about our players and our coaches,” said Donnie Branch, LaGrange’s head coach. “We focused on our goals and took it step by step. I’m really proud of this group of guys.”
LAGRANGE – 3
LOVETT – 2
The story of both games was the pitching for the Grangers, especially in the closeout game as Trevor Booton powered his way to a dominant complete game performance.
“It was the biggest relief to get that final out,” Booton said. “I could be any happier for the team. We have been working to get back here for a whole year.”
Booton allowed just five hits and two earned runs on 11 strikeouts. The senior right-hander was in complete command outside of a blip in the sixth inning in which he allowed two runs with two-outs that allowed Lovett to tie the game. Booton did not back down and got two strikeouts and a fly out in the seventh to claim the victory, slamming his glove down in sure excitement as he fanned the final batter.
“I knew I had to keep pitching and they were getting some weak hits and my defense was making plays, so I felt confident that we could work our way out of it,” Booton said.
In between those innings, the Grangers were able to score the winning run when Robbie Parker trotted home after a balk by the Lovett pitcher.
The Grangers did not produce a lot of offense in game two which left Branch a little frustrated despite the victory.
“We did not do enough offensively, we did enough, but we will have to be better next week,” Branch said. “We did not hit very smartly today. I thought we took some pitches that we should have swung at.”
The Grangers mustered just three hits in the game — one each by Cooper Stephens, Tanner Langley and Preston Pressley.
Langley got the Grangers on the board first with an RBI groundout in the top of the second as Parker scored the first of his two runs in the game. This was followed by Cooper Stephens scoring on a wild pitch which gave the Grangers a 2-0 advantage early in the game.
LAGRANGE – 4
LOVETT – 3
Much like in game two, the opening game on Saturday featured two pitcher’s getting to work. The Grangers were led by Trey Cook, who pitched a dominant complete game performance to get the win.
“Once I settled in I felt really comfortable out there,” Cook said. “It’s my senior year and these are my last games at The Branch. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
Cook was in command during his seven innings on the mound, allowing just five hits and three earned runs on nine strikeouts.
“Both of our pitchers were phenomenal,” Branch said.
The senior left-hander was helped by a more potent offense in game one as the team was able to string together eight hits in the game. Cook also helped his cause from the plate, going 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored.
After doing his signature sprinkler dance following a double to open the game, Cook was able to score on an error and give the Grangers a 1-0 lead after the first inning.
Lovett struck back and scored two runs in the top of the second but the Grangers were undeterred and were able to score three runs in the bottom of the third to retake control of the game.
LaGrange tied the game when Cole Garner hit a double to right field. It could have been more for the Grangers, but Seth Stargell was called out in a tight call at home plate. LaGrange was able to retake the lead after a series of two wild pitches in the span of three throws from the pitcher allowed Gryson Cockrell and Garner to reach home safely and give the Grangers a 4-2 lead.
Lovett got a run back in the top of the sixth on a two-out double, but Cook was able to get a ground out to preserve the lead. Cook slammed the door on any attempt at a rally by striking out two batters and forcing another into a ground out in the seventh inning.
Cockrell had the only multi-hit game for LaGrange, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Garner had a hit, a run scored and the team’s lone RBI in game one.
LaGrange will play on Friday, May 19 against North Oconee in a doubleheader at CoolRay Field in Gwinnett. The first game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m., but the teams are at the mercy of the 6A state championship which is played on the same field starting at noon. A potential game three would be played Saturday at noon. It is a rematch from the AAAA state championship a season ago and a true battle of heavyweights as neither team has lost a playoff game heading into the state championship series.
“Having that experience last year helps a lot,” Cook said. “You could see last season when we dogpiled after beating Cedartown in the semis, that was our World Series. This year is different, we have a different attitude about it.”