East Coweta rolls past Newnan in series finale
by Doug Gorman
If the East Coweta Indians were worried about playing twice this week at Newnan's Joe Pope Field, they sure didn't show it.
East Coweta ventured into enemy territory twice and both times came away with wins that decided this crucial three-game Region 3-AAAAAA series. The Indians capped the series with an 11-5 victory over the Cougars in Saturday's three-hour marathon on Newnan's field.
The Cougars sent the series to a deciding game by winning at East Coweta on Thursday. With the victory, the Indians took two out of three games to jump into the Region 3-AAAAAA drivers' seat.
The Indians improved their Region 3-AAAAAA record to 11-1, while Newnan dropped to 10-2. More importantly, they earn a tiebreaker over the Cougars, who need to sweep Langston Hughes and hope that East Coweta drops two of its last three in its final 3-AAAAAA series against Westlake.
Two of those three will be played at East Coweta, the first of which is on Monday.
"I think all the kids need to be recognized," Indians head coach Franklin DeLoach said. "The guys from both teams played very hard."
The final game of the series was delayed nearly 24 hours by Friday's rain. Moving the final game to Saturday might have played in the Indians' favor as Zack McCurry returned to the mound and picked up the win for East Coweta. He was aided by a 13-hit performance where eight of nine Indians in the order had at least a hit.
McCurry was also the winner in the first game of the series on Tuesday night.
In Saturday's series finale, McCurry finished with four strikeouts and no walks in five innings to pick up the win.
DeLoach wasn't really sure how he was going to use his pitching after Friday's delay before deciding to go back to his No. 1 hurler.
"The rainout pushed Zack to the front of the line," DeLoach said. "Zack has a pretty good rubber arm, so we felt like we could come back with him.
After the fifth, Matthew Meyer and Cole Antmann each pitched an inning of relief to help the Indians secure the win. Antmann retired two batters in the seventh with strikeouts and got a ground ball for the last out of the contest.
East Coweta spread the offensive wealth en route to the win pounding out 13 hits.
Designated hitter Bryce Gemmel was 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Tim Manning finished with two hits, one on a successful squeeze bunt, and also drove in two RBIs to pace the East Coweta offense.
East Coweta's lead-four batters — Cam Smith, Gemmel, Amtmann and Jon Banks — combined to go 8-for-16 with five runs and 3 RBIs.
Rodney Tennie, Sam Buchanan and Charles Reeves each had RBIs for the Cougars.
East Coweta broke a tie game open with six runs in the fifth against Newnan's Thomas Sumner, arguably the Cougars' top pitcher this season. The Indians greeted Sumner, who came in for starter Jake Kneidel, by sending 11 batters to the plate to grab a 9-3 lead.
Stephan Cruver's pinch-hit double drove in two runs. Jon Banks also had a key RBI in the inning.
The Indians added their final two in the sixth when Banks and Meyer both singled and later scored.
East Coweta built a 1-0 lead in the first inning when leadoff hitter Cameron Smith coaxed a walk. A double from Amtmann and an intentional walk to Banks loaded the bases for Geremy Walton, whose sacrifice fly scored Smith with the first run of the game.
Newnan was able to counter twice to tie the game, starting in the bottom of the first when Dreggors led off with a single, moved to second on Derrick Nelson's sacrifice bunt and scored on an error.
East Coweta increased the lead to 3-1 with two runs in the top of the second. The Indians got some help from the bottom of the lineup as Travis Williams and Manning reached on singles. Williams stole second, went to third on a balk call and then came home on Manning's perfectly-executed squeeze toward the first base bag. Manning then scored the second run of the inning on a Newnan error.
The Cougars again responded in the fourth inning, scoring two runs to tie the game again at 3-3. Buchanan started the inning with a double and scored on Tennie's base hit. Charles Reeves scored the tying run after getting hit by a pitch. Reeves used his speed on Tennie's base hit, going from first to third and later scoring on an wild pickoff throw by McCurry.
After East Coweta's six-run explosion in the bottom of the fifth, Newnan added its final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth when Dreggors singled and scored on Reeves base hit, and one final run in the seventh when Jonathan Swenson led off the inning with a walk and later scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded.
"We played hard, and I really thought we had something going when we came back and tied the game," said Newnan head coach Kenny Morris. "Give them credit, they just came out and started hitting the ball."
Both teams have a final three-game region series remaining that starts Monday.
"We just told our guys that we have to go out there now and get ready for Langston Hughes," he said. "Home-field advantage is still on the line in the playoffs," Morris said.