December 4, 2020

Braves oust top seeded Trojans

The Braves celebrate after sweeping the Trojans Wednesday in Barnesville (Photo: Brandi Spradlin)

The Braves celebrate after sweeping the Trojans Wednesday in Barnesville (Photo: Brandi Spradlin)

(Barnesville, GA) — The Heard County Braves swept the top seed from Region 4-AA in a doubleheader Wednesday to earn a trip to next week’s GHSA Class AA State Quarterfinals for the second straight season.

The back-to-back wins over the Lamar County Trojans came at an opportune time for Coach Trent Bianco’s squad as they appear to be peaking at just the right time — much like they did a season ago when they also landed in the Elite 8.

However, this year’s path has been more difficult with the team needing to win road series as the No. 3 seed in Region 5-AA, whereas last season they played the entire state playoff schedule at home as Region Champions.

“With us starting 1-6 and finishing third in the region with everyone doubting us and everything just makes it that much sweeter, but we are glad to be back in the Elite 8 where we thought we should be for a chance to play for it all,’ said Bianco after the games.

An early two-run homer from junior Ethan Brant set the tone offensively in game one Wednesday as the Braves cruised to an 8-4 win over the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AA.

Junior southpaw Lee Kay delivered another solid postseason performance to earn his fourth win of the season. Kay worked six innings allowing just a single earned run on four hits and one walk. Kay fanned a season-high seven batters.

Senior Carl Lipford pitched the seventh inning in relief.

Brant’s homer was his first of the season and the Braves’ third as a team. He leads the team in extra base hits on the season with 18. Brant’s two RBI’s give him a team high 32 for the year.

Kay and senior Chandler Polk each had a double and two base hits.

The Braves opened up the game with five in the top half of the fourth.

The Braves the home team in a nightcap that saw them eliminate the Trojans from state title contention with a 9-4 win.

Senior Keagan Spradlin earned his team-high sixth win of the season to lead the way early. Spradlin struck out five in four innings before giving way to reliever Austin Wilson. Wilson pitched the rest of the game to save it for Spradlin and earn a three inning save.

Offensively in game two, Logan Ward and Tristan Brown each had multiple hit games while Chandler Polk and Brant each drove home a pair of runs. Chris O’Neal homered for the Trojans in the loss.

“I think we are swinging it the best we have all season,” Bianco stated Wednesday night.”We are averaging about 10 runs a game over the last six games and that makes us tough to beat. It was also big for us to get some sacrifice bunts down today and keep the small ball going.”

It is still unclear who the Braves will meet in the quarterfinals or where they will play.

Harlem and Holy Innocents split their twin bill on Wednesday and will play a rubber game today. If Harlem wins the Braves would travel across the state next week, but a Holy Innocents win would mean the Braves would host the Elite 8 matchup.

Coach Bianco says his team is ready for whomever they face next, but admits they may have a preference because of the location factor.

“If I had my way, we would definitely prefer a chance to play at home in front of our fans,” says Bianco. “That would be something special.”

The series will begin with a doubleheader on Tuesday and a third game would be played on Wednesday.

This is the first time in school history under the modern playoff format that the Braves have reached the quarterfinals in back-to-back seasons.

In other Region 5-AA playoff matchups, Bremen and Bowdon each split doubleheaders and will host deciding “if” games today.

Other Class AA teams sweeping and landing in the Elite 8 alongside the Braves include Lovett, Wesleyan, and Union County.

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