GHSA Baseball Playoffs
Newnan earns home field for 2nd round
by Doug Gorman
The Newnan Cougars are good at playing a waiting game. They can give credit to Mother Nature who must not be a baseball fan.
After sweeping Newton in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs last Friday, the Cougars didn’t find out who or where their second-round opponent was going to be until Tuesday night thanks to two days of rain delays.
They know now.
The Cougars will host Tift County at home on Thursday starting at 4 p.m.
Tift County finally settled the score with a 2-1 victory on the road against McEachern in a huge upset after the final game of the series was finally played.
The Indians went into the game ranked third in the most recent gasports.com Class AAAAAA coaches poll with a 23-5 record, while Tift made it to the playoffs with a 14-12 record and as the No. 4 seed out of Region 1-AAAAAA.
Tift entered the playoffs after losing three of its last five games.
Newnan head coach Kenny Morris is glad to be home, but knows nothing is easy at this stage of the postseason.
“Once you get to the Sweet 16, you know everybody is going to be pretty good in some area of the game,” he said. “We just have to go out there and play our game.”
Tift County won the first game of the series 4-1, but McEachern took the second game 11-4.
After the two teams split Friday’s doubleheader, the third-and-deciding game was supposed to be played Saturday afternoon.
It didn’t happen. Rains and and a soggy field forced the postponement of the third-and-finale game until 6:30 p.m., Tuesday.
Zach Bullard picked up both wins for Tift County during the series that can only be considered an upset.
Although Newnan’s second round was expected to begin today, the Georgia High School Association has granted permission to start the best of three-series on Thursday.
“We would like it to start tomorrow (Wednesday), but we understand why it’s being pushed back,” Morris said.
Newnan should enter the game with plenty of confidence. The Cougars swept the Newton County 15-9 and 11-0 to move on to the Sweet 16.
Newnan displayed plenty of offense en route to the two wins, outhitting their guest 25-6. It also got solid pitching from starters Thomas Sumner in game one, and Brandon Dawson in game two.
Morris admits there are a couple of areas where Newnan has excelled this year on the way to the Sweet 16.
“I think our pitching and defense has really worked well for us,” Morris said. “In the latter part of the season, we have managed to get some timely hits.”
Newnan entered the playoffs as the second seed out of Region 3-AAAAAA, just one game behind rival East Coweta.
The Cougars finished with a 13-2 Region 3-AAAAAA record. Newnan’s only two region defeats came in the three-game series with the Indians late in the regular season.
Several players stepped up at the plate for the Cougars during the sweep, including Corey Cox who drove in pair of runs in the first game.
Dawson, who held the Rams in check from the mound with his sold outing in the nightcap to secure the sweep, also stepped up in a big way for the Cougars from the plate in game No. 1 going 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
Catcher Sam Buchann proved he could also dig out some extra-base hits after coming up with a triple in the nightcap. Jack Kneidel and Justin Groover also had key hits in the sweep of the Rams.
Since losing to East Coweta in the last game of the three-game series with the Indians, the Cougars take a five-game winning streak into this week’s second-round opener.
Newnan should have an advantage going into the first game since Tift threw its top pitchers in Tuesday’s game.
“You would like to think that gives us an advantage, but you just have to go out there and play the game,” Morris said.
If the two teams split the doubleheader on Thursday, the third and deciding game will be played on Friday.