GHSA Baseball Playoffs
East Coweta, Newnan hoping intangibles stay in their favor
by Staff Reports
Before heading into the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAAA baseball playoffs last week, East Coweta head coach Franklin DeLoach listed three items that usually make or break a postseason run.
The first two were typical for any level of baseball — namely pitching and timely hitting.
The other, however ...
“Lastly,” he said. “You have to catch some breaks.”
The hope for both the Indians and Newnan in advancing through first-round doubleheader sweeps on Friday is that the intangibles of high school baseball will continue to fall in their favor.
East Coweta already knows it will be back at home when second-round action begins on Wednesday. The Indians also have the benefit of playing just seven innings to advance without exerting either of their top-two pitchers.
Newnan, meanwhile, had the benefit of being able to rest up as well on Saturday while also knowing its second-round opponent will only have a day to prepare for the Cougars.
Region 4-AAAAAA champion McEachern and 1-AAAAAA No. 4 seed Tift County continue to wait to play a deciding Game 3 after splitting a doubleheader on Friday. Rain postponed the game until Monday, allowing Newnan head coach Kenny Morris and his staff to have a live look at their next opponent.
In past years, weather has played much the same role in deciding playoff series.
“The year we played Parkview in the state finals [in 2004], we only had one day to prepare because the final game of our semifinal series got rained out,” said DeLoach. “That’s one thing you can’t control.”
The No. 1 state-ranked Indians know they’ll host Marietta on Wednesday in a meeting of teams that breezed through the first round.
East Coweta (26-2) outscored Rockdale County 29-0 over two games that took less than three hours to complete, winning 16-0 in game one and 13-0 in game two.
The Bulldogs were held to three hits against an Indian pitching staff led by senior Zack McCurry and junior Austin Bellamy.
Home-field advantage, however, remains as one intangible in the Indians’ favor.
“It’s always good to be a home this time of the year,” said DeLoach after Friday’s wins. “When you play at home really all you have to worry about is practicing and playing, and not the 10 million other things that go along with playing on the road.
The GHSA bracket, however, is more challenging.
The top-ranked Indians draw No. 10-ranked Marietta (21-7), which is coming off a near-perfect sweep over Camden County in 2-0 and 10-0 victories.
Blue Devil pitcher Gabe Friese threw a one-hitter in the opener before Eric Henderson added a no-hitter over six innings in the finale, with Marietta pounding out 10 hits.
It’s the first time in recent history a Marietta team has advanced past the first round and the first home playoff series since 2004.
Newnan awaits either McEachern (23-5) or Tift County (15-13). The 4-AAAAAA champion Indians trailed 4-1 in game two after falling 4-1 in the opener, but managed to rally back to tie the series against a scrappy Blue Devils team that had dropped three of their final four games heading into the postseason.
The No. 6 state-ranked Cougars outhit Newton 25-6 over consecutive 15-9 and 11-0 victories, the latter in five innings. Five players had multiple-hit games in the opener where Newnan built a comfortable 12-3 lead before a six-run fifth inning by the Rams after Cougars starting pitcher Thomas Sumner exited the game.
Tanner Snellgrove was lights out over the final three innings, striking out seven in relief.
Senior Brandon Dawson continued the trend in game two after leading Newnan with a 3-for-3 effort in the opener at the plate. Dawson allowed just one hit through five innings to clinch the series victory.
Northgate’s season ended in the first round of the Class AAAAA tournament with a 6-0 loss to Hardaway on Friday in game three.
The Vikings finished the year at 19-9 record overall after entering the playoffs as the No. 4 seed out of Region 4-AAAAA.
Both 4-AAAAA champion Starr’s Mill and No. 2 seed McIntosh swept opponents to reach the Sweet 16. Whitewater split games with Northside-Columbus 7-2 and 4-1 while awaiting a final game in Columbus on Monday.