High School Baseball
Indians rise to occasion minus senior leader
East Coweta’s baseball team led off Monday with its leadoff hitter, senior Cam Smith, in a hospital bed recovering from an emergency appendectomy that left the rest of his high school career in jeopardy.
The Indians did their best to pick up their senior teammate’s spirits with a 5-2 victory over Westlake that left the team’s magic number to clinch a Region 3-AAAAAA title at one.
On the road, senior right-hander Austin Bellamy fought off a rare speed bump in the second inning that allowed the Lions to close within a run before East Coweta’s bats polished off a productive outing including five extra-base hits.
The Indians’ 14th consecutive win, and 12th straight to open 3-AAAAAA play, provided at least a share of the region title. While off today awaiting Westlake’s trip to Sharpsburg for game two on Wednesday, East Coweta could clinch a 3-AAAAAA championship as early as this afternoon should Newnan and Westlake split a 3 p.m. doubleheader.
The way the Indians (18-5, 12-0) are playing, however, it may seem inevitable.
With Nick Pippen moving up to Smith’s leadoff spot on Monday against the Lions (11-10, 8-3), senior catcher Austin Jones responded with a home run after being elevated into the No. 2 hole in the order, and fellow senior Matthew Meyer continued a standout final varsity season by going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles including an RBI that gave the Indians breathing room in the top of the third.
“It’s a big blow to our team. We had already lost [pitcher] Dalton Chocallo for the season,” East Coweta head coach DeLoach said. “The thing about Cam Smith is it’s not just stats. It’s leadership. He’s a little sparkplug, a good leader. Whether he’s able to come back or not, I’ll just be happy to get him back in the dugout. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Faced with the bad news about Smith — a third-year starter — while heading into the final 3-AAAAAA three-game series of the season against a stingy Westlake team, East Coweta DeLoach was pleased with how the lineup responded to its latest adversity.
“You could tell it lingered on us,” he said. “We were able to get ahead and snuck one out of there.”
The Indians quickly jumped out for three runs in the top of the first starting with Jones’ blast. Meyer continued a two-out rally with a double followed by an RBI single by sophomore Jaquez Williams.
Filling Smith’s starting spot in left field, Mackenzie Martin made an immediate contribution with an RBI single en route to a 2-for-4 effort with 2 RBIs.
The latter of Martin’s two run-scoring hits proved to be even bigger in the top of the third and quickly answered Westlake’s lone rally of the game.
East Coweta’s No. 1-6 hitters went on to finish with nine of the team’s 10 hits while producing all five RBIs in the win. Cary Holloway had the Indians’ other hit.
Bellamy, meanwhile, remained as consistent as any varsity pitcher in the county, shaking off a three-hit second inning that produced both of Westlake’s two runs by retiring 14 of his final 16 batters.
The Indian ace allowed just two hits the rest of the way while finishing with eight strikeouts and just one walk in his second consecutive complete-game region victory in less than a week.
“They’re a good team,” DeLoach said of Westlake. “They had five hits but none of them were hit that hard. He’s did a fine job.”
INDIANS 5, LIONS 2
East Coweta 301 010 0 — 5 10 2
Westlake 020 000 0 — 2 5 3
WP – Austin Bellamy
LP – Lastox
HR — Austin Jones