High School Baseball
Rain forces area schools into busy week of makeups
by Doug Gorman
It's going to be a busy week for all three local GHSA high schools, and they can blame the recent rainy weather for causing quite the log jam with the close of the regular season schedule.
Newnan and East Coweta will open a much anticipated three-game Region 3-AAAAAA series today in Sharpsburg a day late following Tuesday's rain.
The games will now be played over consecutive days starting today at 5:30 p.m., in Sharpsburg, resuming Thursday at Newnan's Joe Pope Field, and concluding (weather permitting) on Fri- day at East Coweta.
There's a 40-percent chance of showers on Friday, with temperatures for all three games expected to remain in the 60s.
In other words, rain, rain go away.
Bad weather on Monday and Tuesday also forced the postponement of Northgate's game against Union Grove, which has been rescheduled for Thursday.
The Vikings will also have to play three Region 4-AAAAA games over consecutive days starting with this afternoon's home showdown with McIntosh. The team closes out the week with a trip to Mt. Zion- Jonesboro on Friday while still in the thick of the race for four state playoff berths.
Northgate begins the week at 9-4 in 4-AAAAA, trailing both Whitewater (13-1) and Starr's Mill (11-3) while most likely out of reach of first or second place having gone 0-3 combined against both opponents.
But the Vikings can put a stamp on an overall tiebreaker over McIntosh (8-5) with a win today after beating the Chiefs 3-2 in Peachtree City on March 19. They also hold a half-game edge on Union Grove (9-5) following a 4-3 win over the Wolverines at home on March 20.
Winners of eight of its last 10 games, Northgate hasn't played since defeating Ola 5-1 on April 3.
McIntosh is trying to spin itself back into contention following rough losses to sub-.500 lineups Mt. Zion and Drew. The Chiefs managed to get Monday's game in with Creekside, thumping the winless Seminoles 13-0.
East Coweta and Newnan are a game apart in the 3-AAAAAA standings, but the Indians are in control of its own destiny.
The Indians (9-0) remain undefeated in region play while riding an 11-game win streak into today's opener against a Cougar team that faces the first of nine games over a 10-day span to close the regular season.
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'I feel good about our pitching,' said Newnan first-year head coach Marc Gilmore about the condensed schedule.
The Cougars' lone blemish was a 5-3 loss to Westlake on March 19, with the team rebounding to win the next five in 3-AAAAAA to take a 5-1 region record into this afternoon's opening contest at East Coweta.
Newnan had both of its games during spring break with Westlake postponed. Game two with the Lions is set for Saturday at Clark Atlanta for a 2 p.m. first pitch. The finale will be played in between the Cougars' series with Langston Hughes on Tuesday at home.
The team closes the regular season with five consecutive games, four of which at Pope Field concluding with a rescheduled game with Douglas County.
While neither Gilmore nor East Coweta head coach Franklin DeLoach may show his hand prior to today's opener, seniors Tanner Snellgrove and Austin Bellamy have led respective teams as No. 1 starting pitchers. East Coweta's order has been led by returning starters Cam Smith, Bryce Gemmel and Matthew Meyer.
Joining that nucleus has been infielders Nick Pippen, Cary Holloway and Devonte Brown, who began the year on the JV. Senior Austin Jones has stepped into a full-time starter behind the plate while Stephan Cruver has regularly joined Smith and Gemmel in the outfield.
Sophomore Jaquez Williams has also made an impact in his varsity debut while Tyler Exley, Graden Treadwell, Mason Meyer and Thomas Leone have all seen ample time on the mound following the loss of Dalton Chocallo to a seasonending injury.
Newnan has also faced the loss of a key regular more recently after senior third-baseman Jake Kneidel took a pitch off his hand during a threegame sweep over Tri-Cities prior to spring break.
Kneidel began the year as one of just five seniors. Along with Snellgrove, the other four expect to be playing the majority of the series - Connor Dunn at catcher, Drew Oldham at second, Justin Groover in the outfield and Walker Sandlin as Kneidel's replacement at third.
Underclassmen, meanwhile, have stepped in during varsity debuts. On the mound, sophomore Sawyer Steele is coming off a no-hit effort against Tri-Cities in a game that was closed out by junior teammate Heys Rowan.
Juniors Matt Thomley, Chris Turner and lefty Sam Sowerbrower have also pitched key innings during an 8-8 season.
Among regulars, sophomore Brady Barnes and junior Tyler Davis have become starters in the outfield along with junior Caleb McElwaney at first base. Junior Chase Jones and sophomore Blake Crossing have both seen time at short while sophomore Ty Herring has provided depth in the outfield.
(Sports editor Chris Goltermann contributed to this story)