July 22, 2019

Brave season ends at Social Circle

(Social Circle, GA) — The 2019 Heard County Brave baseball season came to an end with a close round one doubleheader loss at Social Circle in the state playoffs Wednesday.

Each of the games was very close with the No. 1 seed from Region 8-AA taking game one by a final score of 4-2 and game two by a final of 4-3.

The Redskins advance to round two where they will host Chattooga from Region 7-AA.

Junior Tray Owens started on the hill in game one for the Braves and after a rocky first inning start settled down and pitched very well.

Owens struggled with his control walking two and hitting a batter before a bases clearing triple put the Redskins on top 3-0. Owens did strike out the side.

The Braves had a bases loaded opportunity with no outs in the top of the fourth but were unable to plate a run. They would bounce back to score two in the top of the fifth to make it a one run game before Social Circle scored the games final run in the bottom of the sixth to take game one 4-2.

Owens led the offense with two hits including a double — the Braves’ only extra base hit. Each team had just five hits in the game as both starters threw complete games. Owens struck out six and the Social starter Chandler Ball struck out 10.

In the nightcap, all of the runs by both teams were scored in the first three innings. The Redskins were the visiting team in game two and struck first with two runs in the top of the first off of Brave starting pitcher Dale Thornhill.

The Braves bounced back for a run of their own in the bottom of the first on back-to-back base hits from Owens and Mason Rollings to make it a 2-1 game.

Social would add two more in the top of the third as Thornhill was relieved by freshman Kellon Rollings. Rollings pitched well in relief tossing the final 4.2 innings of the game and allowing no earned runs while striking out three.

The Braves’ final two runs of the series came on a defensive miscue by the Redskins when a pick-off play went awry allowing both Kellon Rollings and Leroy Marsh to score.

Solid starting pitching from the Redskins was the key to the series as each starter went seven innings and allowed just eight total Brave hits on the day.

Brave head coach Trent Bianco says missed opportunities and small mistakes hurt the team in the two close losses.

“It’s never fun whether you get knocked out of the state playoffs in the first round or the Elite 8,” said Bianco. “We had our opportunities tonight but we struggled with some of the little things like making some base-running mistakes and you just can’t do that against the kind of good pitching we saw from Social.”

The coach says that overall his pitchers threw well.

“Tray had a slow start in game one, but after he settled down I thought he was the best pitcher on the field tonight,” Bianco said.

“In game two, Dale started slow and normally he would work himself out of it but we didn’t have the luxury of being able to give him that chance. I thought Kellon looked really strong especially for a freshman being put into that spot.”

The Braves team after a season ending doubleheader loss at Social Circle Wednesday night (Photo: Christy Thornhill)

The Braves will graduate three seniors: Right fielder Tanner Collins, catcher Will Hammett, and outfielder Colin Wright who missed the season with a knee injury.

“It will be tough to replace those three seniors and is especially hard for me since I have been with all of them at least four years, but we do have a lot coming back next season and I think this group could be very special next season.”

Juniors Tray Owens and Mason Rollings both had outstanding season stats offensively and should lead the way as seniors in 2020. Owens batted .423 with seven homers and 34 RBI’s while Rollings hit .420 five homers and 29 RBI’s. The Braves batted .304 as a team.

Owens also led the way in the circle with a season ERA of just 2.10 with 54 strikeouts in 60 innings. He lead the team with five wins.

In other Region 5-AA state playoff action Bremen swept Union County, Callaway swept Banks County, and Elbert County git past Lamar County in three games.

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