August 19, 2018

Brave season ends in heartbreak

Senior Keagan Spradlin had two hits in Wednesday's heartbreaking 8-7 loss (Photo: Melanie Boyd/Times-Georgian)

Senior Keagan Spradlin had two hits in Wednesday’s heartbreaking 8-7 loss (Photo: Melanie Boyd/Times-Georgian)

(Franklin, GA) — A packed house at Alford Field Wednesday afternoon witnessed one of the most thrilling games in school history that ended in heartbreak for the Heard County Braves baseball team.

The highs were the highest and the lows were the lowest as the Braves and the visiting Golden Bears of Holy Innocents battled down to the very last pitch to try an earn a coveted spot in the Class AA Final Four.

A two-run homer from junior Ethan Brant gave the Braves a 7-3 lead in the top of the sixth before the Bears bounce right back with a two-out grand slam from Matthew Meadows to tie the game at 7-7.

The Bears were able to load the bases and score a run on a wild pitch for the walk-off 8-7 win as an awesome postseason run came to an excruciating conclusion for Coach Trent Bianco’s gritty squad.

The three game series with the Bears proved to be one of the best in the state with numerous lead changes throughout, two walk-off victories, and each game being decided by just a single run.

Like the first two games in the series, game three was a see-saw affair throughout as each team answered the other’s success.

The Braves, the visiting team via coin-flip, scored a run in the top of the first but the Bears matched in the bottom half. The Braves added two in the third as did the Bears to tie it at 3-3. And the Bears finally answered in a big way with the late grand slam after Ethan Brant’s heroics in the sixth.

Several Braves had key days at the plate including junior Lee Kay who went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored, and an RBI.

Ethan Brant had two hits and three RBI’s along with his big homer. Seniors Chandler Polk and Keagan Spradlin also had multiple hit performances.

The circumstances around this defeat were eerily similar to the quarterfinal loss to Fitzgerald in three games at home last season but the road was quite different.

The 2016 Braves battled injuries and early season woes including a 1-6 start to the season and a third place finish in Region 5-AA before bouncing back in the postseason.

Playing a very strong non-region schedule early in the season seemed to once again prove very beneficial in the postseason. Coach Bianco is especially proud of his senior class.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this team and how they represented our school and our community,” Bianco said. “The seniors put us on their back this year and got us here. I can’t tell you how many people counted us out early in the year and all our guys did was grow closer and compete and get us back to the Elite 8 and so close to the Final Four.”

The eight seniors, Tristan Brown, Christian Merrill, Zack Hill, Drew Blair, Chandler Polk, Quay Daniel, Keagan Spradlin, and Carl Lipford will be sorely missed not just in baseball but as outstanding members of the Heard High athletics program in general.

“You couldn’t ask for better leadership than we got from those eight guys,” says Bianco. “It is just so important for our younger guys to have these good role models.”

The senior class finishes as one of the most successful in school history with four consecutive state playoff appearances, the first Region Championship in over 30 years (2015), and back-to-back appearances in the Elite 8.

Bianco credits more than just the senior class for the success this season and postseason.

“Every single one of those guys in the dugout contributed and played during the series and part of the year, freshmen to seniors — they all played a part in getting us here. It was not one guy or two guys or three guys, we have 16 guys on this varsity roster that got us here,” Bianco said.

The Braves were the only public school team to win even a game from the private schools in the quarterfinals.

The Final Four will feature all private Atlanta area schools from Region 6-AA: Wesleyan, Holy Innocents, GAC, and Lovett.

Comments

  1. Congrats Braves on a great season!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: