May 23, 2018

The Agony of Defeat: Brave season ends in heart-wrenching loss at Bleckley

(Cochran, GA) — The Heard County Brave baseball team and fans that traveled to middle Georgia this weekend experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during a dramatic three game Sweet 16 series that ended with a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to the Bleckley County Royals.

The walk-off loss Saturday afternoon capped the best four-year run in the history of the program for Coach Trent Bianco and a group of six seniors who no doubt left it all on the field. The teams had split the first two games of the series in a doubleheader Friday.

It was a frustrating series for the Braves as they were left wondering what might have been after a tough 5-4 loss in the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader where they outhit the Royals 9-2 but were unable to win where it counted most — on the scoreboard.

Sophomore Tanner Collins (#17) welcomes senior Ethan Brant (#15) to the plate after his dramatic go-ahead solo HR in the seventh inning of game three Saturday in Bleckley

Sophomore Tanner Collins (#17) welcomes senior Ethan Brant (#15) to the plate after his dramatic go-ahead solo HR in the seventh inning of game three Saturday in Bleckley

In fact, the Braves outhit the Royals 29-14 in the series and outscored the home team 15-11 overall, but it would be the Royals who would rally from a 4-1 deficit over the final two innings Saturday to earn a trip to the Elite 8 and a chance to host Bacon County.

The Braves battled tooth and nail throughout the series with senior Ethan Brant delivering a go-ahead solo blast in the top of the seventh of a 4-4 game three that appeared to give the Braves the edge in the see-saw battle.

Brant’s heroics would be erased in the bottom half of the inning after a pop up was lost in the sun by the Brave infield and Brave pitchers were unable to find the strike zone.

The Royals would push two runs across in the inning on just one hit to end the series.

Coach Trent Bianco and his squad were clearly devastated by the gut wrenching loss but at the same time Bianco was proud of all of the accomplishments by his squad during his first four years at the helm.

Those accomplishments included the first Region Championship in over 30 years, two 20 wins seasons, back-to-back Elite 8 appearances, state playoff runs in all four years, and a state No. 1 ranking for several weeks earlier this season.

“Our guys battled and sometimes I feel like the best team doesn’t always win but you have to tip your cap to Bleckley they found a way to get it done. Every kid on this team played a hand in getting us this far and I’m so very proud of each and every one of them,” said Bianco after the series.

The Braves jumped out to a tremendous start in the series Friday in game one as they dominated the Region 3-AA Champions by a final score of 6-0.

Senior Austin Wilson was outstanding on the mound tossing a complete game shut out walking none and striking out three.

Offensively, the Braves pounded out nine hits against one of the top pitching prospects in the state, Raffield Carter.

Senior Lee Kay led the way offensively with three hits and junior Bryan Jones set the pace with a towering solo homer off of Carter in the second inning. Senior Logan Ward also had two RBI’s and Wilson helped himself with an RBI hit. Ward and Wilson also each had multiple hits in the 5-4 game two loss.

The Braves trailed 5-1 entering the bottom of the sixth before battling back to within a run. Jones had a huge series at the plate with six hits.

It was the second straight season Brant would come through with a big homer late in a game three. Brant delivered another big blow during game three of last year’s Elite 8 loss to Holy Innocents.

An emotional Bianco expressed just how proud he was of his senior class late Saturday — the first class that the fourth year head coach spent all four seasons with.

“I feel like I say this every year but our senior class has again raised the bar. The work and leadership displayed has paved the way for our underclassmen to follow. Each of them contributed to making our program a success,” said Bianco.

“Every one of these guys wore the Braves jersey with pride and with honor. They truly made our job as coaches a pleasure to come to everyday. On a personal note, this group of seniors were all freshmen when I got to Heard,” added Bianco.

“I want to personally say thank you to each of them for doing everything I, along with the rest of our coaching staff, ever asked them to do. These guys believed in me and for that I can’t tell you how much that means to me. As these guys learned — so did I. I can’t think of a better group of young men to represent Heard County High School.”

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