July 16, 2019

Braves going into playoffs on a high note

(Franklin, GA) — The Heard County Braves closed out the regular season with a solid 10-4 home win over Class AAAA Central of Carrollton Friday at Alford Field.

The win was a nice bounce-back from a 10-0 road loss at Class AAAAA Harris County on Thursday where the team just had two hits in a five inning loss.

The Braves finished the regular season as the No. 4 seed in Region 5-AA and will travel to face Region 8-AA No. 1 seed Social Circle in a doubleheader this Wednesday to open the 2019 GHSA Class AA State Playoffs.

A total team effort at the plate propelled Coach Trent Bianco’s squad to the win over Central Friday as every player in the lineup had at least one base hit.

Dale Thornhill, Caden Raines, and Will Hammett sparked the offense with two hits apiece while Mason Rollings dealt the biggest blow of the game in the form of a second inning 3-run homer — his fifth of the season.

The Braves (13-16, 8-7) posted nine runs in the second inning to put the game out of reach early. Rollings and Thornhill each drove home three in the game.

On the mound, freshman Kellon Rollings picked up his fourth win of the season after tossing 4.2 innings. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out three before giving way to Tray Owens in relief to close out the game.

Despite being a lower seed than in year’s past, Bianco believes his team can make another deep run if they continue to play well.

“Like most years I feel like we are playing some of our best baseball heading into the playoffs,” says Bianco. “I’ve told the guys as a one seed or as a four seed it doesn’t matter if we are playing our best ball we can beat anyone in the state — but at the same time we have to continue to do the little things right.”

The coach is not overly concerned with the 10-0 loss versus a 19-7 AAAAA Harris County team Thursday.

“Sometimes you just get your butt kicked and that’s kind of what happened — Harris County is a very good team. It’s not like we went out there and laid an egg. We didn’t have any errors and we hit the ball on the nose but many of those we just hit right at people. Either way I think sometimes it is good to go out there and get humbled a little bit.”

The Braves have reached the state quarterfinals in three of last four years and hope to reach the Elite 8 once again even though the road will be a little tougher from the lower seed with virtually no chance of any games being played at home.

Social Circle enters the postseason as the top seed from Region 8-AA after remarkably four teams battled for the top spot over the last few regular season games. Social actually finished with the same 11-3 region record as Elbert County with both Banks County and Union County finishing just one game behind at 10-4.

Bianco says he knows Social Circle has some good arms but if his team can continue to make the routine plays defensively and keep a good approach at the plate then they have a shot to make it to round two.

The winner of the Heard/Social series will face either Chattooga from Region 7-AA or McNair from Region 6-AA in the Sweet 16.

Regular season state leaders for the Braves offensively included Tray Owens (.422 batting average, 38 hits, 7 HR’s, 10 doubles, 33 RBI’s), Leroy Marsh (11 steals, 34 runs), Caden Raines (18 walks), and Mason Rollings (11 steals).

Tray Owens also led the pitching staff in wins (5), ERA (1.93), and strikeouts (48). Marsh recorded the team’s only save of the season.

In the middle infield, Thornhill and Raines both had excellent seasons with better than .900 fielding percentages.

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