Arm and Hammer: Indians teammates Bellamy, Gemmel earn top honors
by Doug Gorman
When East Coweta head baseball coach Franklin DeLoach needed a clutch performance during the 2014 season, he had his share of seniors to rely on.
But more often than not it was pitcher Austin Bellamy and centerfielder Bryce Gemmel who came through as hoped.
In their final varsity seasons, the duo helped lead the Indians to a 22-7 record that included a Region 3-AAAAAA title, an 18-game winning streak and an eventual trip to the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
All too often, Bellamy silenced opposing batters on the mound during his final varsity season en route to Pitcher of the Year honors.
Developing into East Coweta’s ace following the graduation of 2013 Pitcher of the Year Zach McCurry, Bellamy closed out his senior season with 10-2 record and a 1.60 ERA over a team-high 67 innings.
Among the right-hander’s best performances was a four-hit shutout over Colquitt County to open the first round of the state playoffs.
Gemmel, a two-sport standout for the Indians who excelled as a starting quarterback, finished with a .481 batting average and 34 RBIs in his final year on the diamond. With equal amounts of power and speed, he added 24 stolen bases, four doubles and six triples to earn Player of the Year honors.
His .587 on-base percentage was also among the best in the county while now moving on to Garden City (Kan.) Community College to play football and baseball.
Success, however, wasn’t limited to a single school in a year where all five county programs reached the state playoffs for the first time. Newnan, which went 15-12 under first-year head coach Marc Gilmore, found its stride in time for the playoffs, winning six consecutive Region 3-AAAAAA games to close the regular season before battling with Valdosta in a first-round series decided by a one-run loss in Game 3.
Northgate also battled through an intense playoff race out of Region 4-AAAAA where seven teams competed for four spots in the state bracket. The Vikings also started slow, winning just two of their first nine games before reeling off eight unanswered to jump back into the thick of the playoff race.
Northgate closed the season at 16-12 after finishing fourth in 4-AAAAA with a 15-5 record before giving eventual state champion Houston County a run. The Vikings jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Houston in Game One before falling 6-5 in 11 innings in what became a two-game sweep.
In GISA Region 1-AAA, Trinity Christian put together its first trip to the state playoffs and The Heritage School battled through an injury-plagued season to finish strong to take the No. 3 seed out of the region.
All five schools are represented on this year’s All-County team led by six players from both Northgate and Newnan. Gemmel and Bellamy are joined by five East Coweta teammates while Trinity and Heritage each garnered a player.
Pitching was a key for the Cougars in a year where the program was trying to replace a large group of seniors that dominated the starting lineup in 2013.
Senior left-hander Tanner Snellgrove and sophomore righty Sawyer Steele posted 4-2 records to lead the way while accounting for 93 of Newnan’s 187 innings pitched.
Each was effective with Snellgrove posting a 2.18 ERA and 60 strikeouts in a season-high 48 innings, yielding 27 walks. Steele, meanwhile, led Newnan with a 1.86 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 21 walks in 45 innings.
The Cougars also had four position players earn nods on the All-County team including seniors Jake Kneidel, Drew Oldham and Connor Dunn.
Kneidel battled through a hand injury to rejoin the team for its final run toward the playoffs while batting .299 with 13 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .425.
Oldham gave Newnan a scrappy hitter at the bottom of the lineup capable of keeping innings alive. The second baseman’s 24 hits ranked third on the team and his .364 average was second on the team while finishing with 11 RBIs. Defensively, his 53 assists topped all fielders.
At Oldham’s left this year, junior first baseman Caleb McElwaney led the Cougars with a .379 batting average to go with 15 RBIs and five doubles.
Behind the plate, meanwhile, Connor Dunn provided a catcher that was as strong defensively, with a .985 fielding percentage, as well as potent at the plate. The senior batted .290 with six RBIs and three sacrifices to go with a .453 on-base percentage.
Northgate equally placed six players on the All-County team in a balanced year that saw as many Viking hitters post at least 14 RBIs.
Third baseman Chase Allen led the production with 27 and four homers — both tops among Vikings – while batting .338 for the season.
Outfielders Andrew Burden and Armand Upshaw led team starters with respective batting averages of .449 and .420, respectively. Upshaw’s 24 hits, which included seven doubles, was a team-high.
Both Burden and senior outfielder James Poropatic had a team-high 29 runs for Northgate’s offense. Burden had 14 RBIs while Poropatic had 19 and a team-high eight doubles while batting atop the order.
Senior second-baseman Buddy Green and junior catcher Jonathan Hamilton were also honored. Hamilton batted .382 while Green hit .289 and also posted a 4-0 record with a 0.91 ERA in 15 ? innings.
Both Hamilton and Green finished with 12 RBIs on the season.
As far as run-producers, East Coweta’s Matt Meyer led the county as one of the area’s top sluggers. The senior, who started at both third and first during the year, drove in 44 runs while adding team-highs of 12 doubles and four homers to go with a .395 batting average and an on-base percentage of .481.
Much like Northgate, outfield was also a strong spot for the Indians. Along with Gemmel, senior left-fielder Cam Smith and junior Stephan Cruver earned selections.
Before having his season cut short prior to the playoffs following an appendectomy, Smith was batting .367 with 19 RBIs at the top of the Indians batting order. His 30 runs scored were second on the team behind Gemmel.
Cruver finished with a .343 average, a .510 on-base percentage, 29 runs scored, 21 RBIs, six doubles and two homers.
Among five East Coweta seniors honored, catcher Austin Jones was tasked with handling a young pitching staff while coming on strong at the plate following Smith’s injury. He finished with 23 RBIs and two homers while batting .269 for the season.
Sophomore pitcher Thomas Leone benefitted from Jones’ help in his first varsity season on the mound. Leone finished with a 5-1 record and a 1.82 ERA while also posting two saves. His final win came in a shutout of Colquitt County to wrap up the Indians’ first-round state playoffs series.
Pitching also proved a key to Trinity Christian’s breakthrough year in the GISA. Cole Elrod, last year’s backup catcher, became an even bigger force on the mound while helping the Lions post eight victories by late April.
Elrod was responsible for four while going 4-3 with a save and posting a 1.53 ERA with 31 strikeouts.
Sophomore outfielder Brad Macke represented the Heritage School after helping lead the Hawks back to the GISA playoffs. Macke batted .425 while also leading Heritage in RBIs, total bases and stolen bases while earning a GISA All-State selection.
2014 All County Baseball Team
Pitcher of the Year—Austin Bellamy, East Coweta, Sr
10-2 record, 1.60 ERA. 67 innings pitched
Player of the Year—Bryce Gemmel, East Coweta, Sr.
.481 Avg., 34 RBIs, 36 runs, 24 SB, 6 triples, .587 on-base percentage
All County Team
POS School Year
3B Chase Allen Northgate Sr
OF Andrew Burden Northgate Jr
OF Stephan Cruver East Coweta Jr.
C Connor Dunn Newnan Sr
P Cole Elrod Trinity Christian Sph.
2B Buddy Green Northgate Sr.
C Jonathan Hamilton Northgate Jr.
3B Jake Kneidel Newnan Sr
P Thomas Leone East Coweta So
C Austin Jones East Coweta Sr.
OF Brad Macke Heritage School So.
1B Caleb McElwaney Newnan Jr.
1B/3B Matt Meyer East Coweta Sr.
2B Drew Oldham Newnan So.
OF James Poropatic Northgate Sr.
OF Cam Smith East Coweta Sr.
P Tanner Snellgrove Newnan Sr
P Sawyer Steele Newnan So
OF Armand Upshaw Northgate Sr.
Honorable Mention: East Coweta — P Tyler Exley, Jr., 3B/SS Cory Holloway, Jr., DH/1B Jaquez Williams, So.; Heritage School — P Luke Smith, P Brian McKinney; Newnan— OF Brady Barnes, So, OF Justin Groover, Sr.; Northgate — P Chad Green, 1B Connor Wilson; Trinity Christian — Devin Colburn, Leighton Cannon.