High School Baseball
Indians jump out in front to open series with Cougars
by Chris Goltermann
Even before East Coweta head coach Franklin DeLoach could say a word of his postgame address following Wednesday's 8-1 win over Newnan at home, his players already had them on the tips of their tongues.
They've been nearly identical after every first victory of a Region 3-AAAAAA series, so it was no surprised when one Indian said the word, 'marathon,' on his way to the outfield huddle.
Nevertheless, the first of three games between rivals over consecutive days played more like a sprint for East Coweta, with the Indians taking advantage for three runs off three Newnan walks in the first inning.
From there, East Coweta stayed in front behind another completegame effort from senior right-hander Austin Bellamy while putting the Cougars in an even tougher position heading into games two and three of the series today and Friday.
At 10-0 in 3-AAAAAA and 16-5 overall, the Indians now have a twogame lead on their closest rivals, as Newnan fell to 6-2 in the region and 8-9 overall while starting a stretch of nine games over a 10-day span.
DeLoach, however, knew it was just one step forward.
'This is a marathon,' DeLoach said after the team improved its region winning streak to 10 games to open the 3-AAAAAA schedule. 'We were fortunate today that we were able to take advantage of some things early. 'Belly' gave us a chance to win a game and did a great job again for us. Today we'll take it. But we're just one-third of the way.'
Bellamy held Newnan to four hits, just one of which went for extrabases, and a contrast between an East Coweta lineup with several key contributors from last year's 3-AAAAAA champions and a Cougars team that began the season looking to fill major holes in the lineup showed its head at times.
Seniors Bryce Gemmel and Matthew Meyer were among six Indians that posted RBIs, each driving in a pair of runs on two-out hits to pad the lead during rallies in the fourth and sixth innings.
Gemmel, who reached base in all four at bats, drove a pitch to right field in the fourth after East Coweta loaded the bases on Jaquez Williams' leadoff double, an error and a grounder to the f irst-base side that Devonte Brown legged out for an infield single.
Struggling in his first three at-bats, Meyer came through in the sixth by driving in Indians teammates Nick Pippin and Gemmel with a hard line-drive toward the gap in left center.
'It's good to see those things,' DeLoach said.
All nine Indians in the order managed a hit, a run scored or an RBI in the victory.
Bellamy, meanwhile, fanned six Cougars and only yielded an unearned run in the third while throwing 68 of his 99 pitches for strikes.
It was as much a frustrating outing for a Newnan team looking to make up ground on East Coweta.
Cougars head coach Marc Gilmore - who received a dose of good news on Monday when senior Jake Kneidel was cleared by doctors to return from a broken finger - turned to his young right-hander to start the series, and the initial results were a bit shaky.
Steele surrendered his only three walks to the first three batters of the game to load the bases in the bottom of the first, and East Coweta capitalized on Stephan Cruver's infield hit that went for an RBI, Austin Jones' run-scoring sacrifice fly and a Newnan error to jump ahead early 3-0.
A pitching matchup between two solid righties that had contributed no-hit efforts earlier this year in region play found Steele battling more than Bellamy, who still had to work a bit despite retiring the side in order in the first and sixth innings.
Four Cougar errors that led to at least three unearned runs for East Coweta were as much a hurdle for both Steele and Newnan reliever Heys Rowan, who allowed one hit over the final two innings after coming on in a 6-1 lead after the Indians rallied for three more runs in the bottom of the fourth.
'Mistakes make great teams excellent, good teams great and poor teams good,' Newnan head coach Marc Gilmore said. 'And tonight they were excellent. Austin was outstanding. He makes you swing and makes you put the ball in play.'
Three of the Cougars' four hits came from No. 8 and No. 9 hitters, infielders Chase Jones and Drew Oldham, with Jones going 2-for-2 with a walk.
Too often, however, Newnan stranded opportunities including Caleb McElwaney's leadoff double down the right-field line in the second that seemed to catch a piece of Meyer's first baseman's mitt. From there, the Cougars went down in order.
Newnan again put leadoff runners aboard in the third and fifth, scoring without a hit in the third and then squandering an even bigger opportunity in the latter rally.
Jones walked and Oldham blooped a single to right to start the fifth, only to see Bellamy erase the lead runner after scooping up Brady Barnes' bunt attempt and firing in time to third.
After finally advancing runners from first and second on a groundout, Newnan was foiled by East Coweta's defense when sophomore shortstop Devonte Brown made up for a pair of errors by charging a slow grounder and firing off balance to a stretching Meyer at first to end the inning.
Despite the loss, Gilmore still believes the Cougars can turn things around while expecting to turn the ball over to senior left-hander Tanner Snellgrove for tonight's game.
'We've got Tanner going [Thursday] and we feel good about that,' he said. 'Obviously we've got to play better than we did [Wednesday]. We're just running out of chances.'
INDIANS 8, COUGARS 1
NEWNAN 001000 0 -1 44
E.COWETA 300302 X -8 72
WP - Austin Bellamy LP - Sawyer Steele