April 23, 2021

Solid 3-2 start for Braves baseball at Heard High

2021 Heard County Braves baseball seniors (L-R): Leroy Marsh, Drew Cornelius, and Hayden McCosh (Photo: Penny Hood/HCHS)

(Franklin, GA) — Heard County Braves varsity baseball has returned in a big way in 2021 with the team winning three of the first five non-region games including a 4-1 win Thursday night at rival Bowdon.

Sophomore Brave starting pitcher Connell White tossed a complete game for his second win of the season, and has been a breakout player for a team that lost numerous starters after the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

White went all seven frames versus the Red Devils, allowing just a pair of hits while striking out seven.

The sophomore hurler also got the win in his first varsity start at home last week versus Mount Zion. In the 7-0 win over the Eagles, White pitched six innings allowing just three hits and a walk while fanning an impressive nine hitters.

Head coach Trent Bianco has been thoroughly impressed with his young starter in his first two outings especially his first varsity start against the Eagles.

“You never really know what you’re going to get in a first varsity start because that’s kind of a big deal, but Connell is even-keeled and a competitor — he’s just been great,” says Bianco.

“He’s had great command of all three of his pitches, he trusts his defense behind him, and he’s just a kid that wants the ball. He strikes me as someone who can be a big game pitcher for us because I don’t think the moment is ever going to be too big for someone like that. I can’t say enough good things about him but at the same time it’s important to note that he put himself in this position with a lot of hard work in the offseason.”

Bianco believes the sophomore unsurprisingly comes from the same mold as his older sister, Mackenzie White — the Class AA Player of the Year and junior catcher for the Lady Braves softball team.

The Braves return three seniors for the 2021 season and all three have been solid at the plate so far and in fact, all currently have the highest batting averages on the team through the first five games.

Drew Cornelius, a D-1 football commit headed to South Florida in the fall, is at the top of the list with a .467 average with two walks, two doubles, and a team-high five RBI’s. The big third baseman was especially hot at the plate in a doubleheader split with Jenkins County last Saturday tallying three hits in each game.

“I’m really excited about Drew, because I know he could be at South Florida already now but he loves baseball and loves to be with his teammates so he decided to be back here for his senior season. His bat has really come around this year and when he pounds the zone on the mound he can be as good as anybody,” Bianco says.

Another senior that will be important to the team’s success is Leroy Marsh. Marsh is also off to strong start hitting .389 with a team-high seven runs scored and five doubles in just 18 official at bats.

The leadoff hitting Marsh has already stolen three bases this year — second only to junior Bo Langley who leads the category with five steals.

“Leroy is a very athletic guy that can play any position on the field. He’s our catalyst sat the top and a very high-energy player,” Bianco says. “He’s about as good as they come in center field but when we need to to we an plug him in on the infield. Leroy is a big part and a major key to what we want to do this year.”

All three seniors have been in the program since middle school including infielder/DH Hayden McCosh. Bianco says McCosh could be a pivotal bat in the Brave lineup this year.

“Hayden’s gonna bit hitting in a lot of places for us and can be a big contributor in our lineup when he’s swinging it well,” says Bianco.

McCosh is off to a good start already hitting .400 with three RBI’s including an important sixth inning pinch hit in the win at Bowdon that drove home an insurance run.

Junior Noah Cantrell has been impressive in relief for the Braves thus far. He has pitched in three games with a win and an ERA of 3.86 over seven innings.

Another junior Ayden Boyd struck out seven in his first start of the season but did not figure in the decision after Jenkins put together a late rally to win the game 6-5 at HCHS.

Other Braves seeing lots of playing time early in the season have been sophomores infielder John Paul Awbrey and catcher Tyler Lasseter along with juniors Blaine Barlow (OF) and Chance Brown (IF).

Junior outfielder Isaiah O’Neal should return to the line-up soon following the conclusion of basketball season.

Coach Bianco says he personally feels grateful to be back on the field after the disappointment of a very promising 2020 season being cut short due to the virus.

“I think anybody that knows me knows that baseball is my favorite hobby and after not being out there for so long you gain a new appreciation for what we do for a living in being able to be around the game and around the kids,” says the head coach. “I’m just so glad to be back out there — it’s something I really missed.”

The Braves will look to continue the strong start with a round-robin doubleheader at Pepperell High School Saturday afternoon.

Weather permitting, the Braves are scheduled to meet Class AA Union County at 1:30 and Class AA Pepperell at 4:00 PM. The Dragons are coached by former Brave standout Chad Brown.

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