LETS PLAY ONE MORE: LaGrange wins game two on walk-off, loses game one in AAAA championship series
Published 1:08 am Saturday, May 20, 2023
Grangers fans were put through the ringer on Friday as they saw the LaGrange baseball team get mercy ruled in game one of the AAAA state championship series, only to see their team turn it around in game two to force a winner-take-all game three on Saturday at noon.
The hero? First year Granger Cole Garner, who walked off game two in the bottom of the 10th inning to get the Grangers one win away from a state championship.
“That moment was unreal,” Garner said. “I’ve dreamed about being in that moment my entire life but to actually live it is surreal.”
LaGRANGE – 6
NORTH OCONEE – 5
After a quick game one, the second game was an absolute marathon with the Grangers coming out on top 6-5 in the 10th inning to extend their season. Even before Garner delivered the most important play of his baseball career so far, the game was an instant classic.
The Grangers conceded three runs in the first inning, but heads never slumped and the
Grangers found their way back into the game.
“No matter what happens, you know the Grangers are going to punch back,” Garner said. “It is almost like a boxing match, you get punched and then you counterpunch without getting knocked down.”
LaGrange chipped away at the Titan lead, scoring one run each in the first three innings to tie the game at three heading into the fourth inning. Cooper Stephens walked with the bases loaded to drive in the first run. An inning later Garner walked with the bases loaded to drive in a second run. Preston Pressley then delivered a monumental hit in the bottom of the third to tie the game.
The Grangers were not done there, scoring two runs on bases-loaded walks from Stephens and Pressley in the bottom of the fourth to give LaGrange its first lead of the series. The reigning champions would not be put away easily and tied the game with a run each in the fifth and sixth inning.
LaGrange got into some dicey moments in extra innings, but relief pitcher Robbie Parker always found a way out of it, allowing just two hits on two strikeouts in his four innings of relief.
“I knew I had to come in and throw strikes right away and compete,” said Parker, who was moved from shortstop to the mound in the seventh inning. “I knew I could trust my defense behind me, and they came through for me.”
This helped set the stage for Garner, who transferred to LaGrange for moments like the one Friday offered him.
“Everybody was telling me that I was here for this moment,” the senior catcher said.
Trevor Booton got the start on the mound for the Grangers and after a shaky first inning he was locked in the rest of the way, allowing just one hit and two earned runs the other five innings he was on the mound.
Offensively, Seth Stargell was the real standout, going 3-for-5 with three runs scored and three stolen bases. His base running allowed the Ganger batters to be put in quality positions. Sophomore Gryson Cockrell, who missed last season’s championship series with an injury, was in the lineup on Friday and delivered in game two, going 2-for-5 with a run scored. Pressley, Tanner Langley and Rob Skinner all had a hit apiece in the game.
NORTH OCONEE – 11
LAGRANGE – 1
The LaGrange baseball team could not get much going in a 11-1 loss in the opening game of the AAAA state championship series on Friday.
The Grangers offense could not get going for most of game one, as they were limited to just one run on five hits. Even when the offense got some traction, the Grangers could not capitalize on key moments. It started early for the Grangers when a lead off single from Trey Cook got the offense started. He was able to advance to third base in the same inning but could not reach home. LaGrange was punished in the bottom of the second when the Titans scored a run with two-outs. Big two-out hits would be a theme for North Oconee in game one with the Titans adding to their lead with a run in the bottom of the third before handing two more in the same inning with another big two-out hit.
Down 4-0, it looked like LaGrange might be able to get a foothold in the game in the top of the fourth when Robbie Parker and Cooper Stephens got on base with one out. The Titans quickly turned a double play and got out of the jam as the Grangers were left scratching their heads.
North Oconee tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a commanding 5-0 lead. LaGrange was finally able to get on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth inning. A walk from Preston Pressley followed by a double from Rob Skinner had the Grangers in business with no outs. Cook grounded out to drive a run home, but the Grangers once again stranded a runner in scoring position and were left wondering what might have been.
From there, it was all Titans, who scored three runs in the fifth and six more in the sixth to end the game by mercy rule after six innings.
Cook got the start on the mound but did not have his best stuff in his four innings on the mound. Grady Westmoreland and Kayden Sutton also saw time on the mound but could do little to slow the potent Titan bats in game one.
Cook was the lone bright spot on offense in game one, going 2-for-3 with the team’s lone RBI. Stargell, Langley and Skinner all had a hit apiece for LaGrange.
LaGrange and North Oconee will match up in a winner-take-all game on Saturday at noon. The Grangers are going for their second championship in program history with their first and only win so far coming in 2004.