October 18, 2018

Times-Georgian All-Area Coach: Trent Bianco

Article written by Jordan Hofeditz and provided courtesy of The Times-Georgian

(Carrollton) — A season 30 years in the making for the Heard County High School baseball team was almost over before it really got started. A mark of 1-5 is where it began, actually.

Knowing potential was there, Trent Bianco wanted to test his team early and often in the season with a tough schedule and through six games the Braves had just the one win to show for themselves.

There were two directions the 2015 season could go from that point — Heard County could have folded up shop and just gotten through the year or it could come together, overcome the slow start and turn things around.

From when the 2015 Times-Georgian All-Area Coach of the Year took the job two years ago, he had no doubt it would be the latter.

“When I took the job it was really apparent. My first year on the job it was nothing but, ‘Yes, sir. No, sir. When can we get more ground balls? When can we get in the cage more?’ The type of kids we have here, and it’s the same for every sport, we felt like we could be successful,” Bianco said.

“We knew we had the right kids in place to eventually make a run. Early on we felt good with the types of kids we had.”

The coaches, the players and the community rallied around each other and turned 1-5 into a Region 5-AA championship and a trip to the Class AA state quarterfinals.

It had been three decades since the Braves had won region and made it three rounds into the playoffs. It took a strong group to make history.

“Any coach, any player will tell you, you don’t want to be 1-5 … The thing about really good teams is, there wasn’t a sense of panic. Everybody believed in what we were doing in practice and knew the type of schedule we had was going to get us ready for the region,” Bianco said.

“We felt if we could win our region and get out of the first round, we had a good shot to make a run. We started 1-5, our guys were never fazed by it.”

When the region slate began the Braves were just 2-5. They then swept three games from Chattahoochee County and took the opener of three against Manchester.

Aside from a one-run loss to Landmark Christian in a non-region game in the middle, the Braves went on to open the region schedule 9-0 and were 11-6 on the season.

Those early region games, and even the close loss to a Class A power, were just what was needed to fuel the turnaround.

“That was the thing early on, where can we get some wins? Where can we gain some confidence? We felt like the first part of our region schedule was a place we could do that,” Bianco said.

“Sure enough, we got some confidence in those non-region games and we got on a little bit of a roll and went 9-0. Bremen comes to town and we take two out of three from those guys, talking about a program that’s won a state title and the last two region titles. Once we took two out of three from those guys, our guys felt really good.”

It all could have come undone when the two-time defending region champions took the first game of the series, but once again Heard County did what it had done all season, responded.

The Braves would go on to win that series two games to one and the same in the regular-season series finale against Bowdon to win the region.

“If you don’t come together when you’re 1-5, then you’re going to fall apart in a hurry. The only people who believed in us early on were the people in between the lines. You know, 1-5 is what it is, but those guys believed in each other and I think we really grew as a team,” Bianco said.

“That’s to their credit. It’s so easy for a high school kid, when things aren’t going well or you start 1-5, to just kind of grind it out and get through the year. They didn’t do that. They wanted more for themselves.”

The Braves would go on to sweep Holy Innocents’ in the first round of the Class AA state playoffs and then Dublin in the second round to reach the quarterfinals. The last time the Braves had been to the third round was 30 years prior when the third round was the finals.

Following a Game 1 win against Fitzgerald, the Braves dropped Game 2 and had to play a decisive third game. In Game 3, Heard County held a late lead, but couldn’t hold on and the season came to a close.

It wasn’t the ending they wanted, but it gave a new standard for future teams to strive for in Franklin.

“We talk about it a lot, setting new standards for our program. Heard County’s always been a perennial playoff team and it’s not just about doing that anymore. It’s about winning region titles. It’s about hosting the first round of the playoffs and then making a long, deep playoff run into May,” Bianco said.

“We’re two outs away from going to the final four, which is absolutely huge. Anytime you get to the elite eight or final four, anything can happen. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us against Fitzgerald in Game 3. It’s about setting new standards. We told our guys, we’re not just a second or third-place team anymore.”

Braves head coach Trent Bianco (Photo: Ricky Stilley/Times-Georgian)

Braves head coach Trent Bianco (Photo: Ricky Stilley/Times-Georgian)

The finish after that 1-5 start blossomed into 20-10.

Being a first-place team and making a playoff run can build some excitement and makes for a fun year. Starting the season the way the Braves did and finishing the way it did makes it that much better.

“As a coach, this has been one of the most fun years I’ve had, especially when you see the guys and as much work as we go through. The fall workouts, as hard as they work in the weight room, the long Saturday practices,” Bianco said.

“When we started winning games, nine in region, taking two of three from Bremen and you have a shot to do something that hasn’t been done in 30 years and people are coming out of the woodwork in Franklin to come watch us play, that’s exciting. That’s fun. It’s hard to put into words how much fun it was seeing the reaction of the community and how they got behind the team and watched them do something special.”

Not only did the players come together, but the coaching staff did. And while the year was special for all of them, it hit a little closer to home for assistant coach James Arp, who went to and played at Heard County.

“It’s so special when you’ve had a good year to do it with a bunch of guys on a coaching staff because you really spend more time with your coaching staff than you do your family sometimes during the season. I know I’m not an easy guy to work with and I can’t say enough about our assistant coaches Matt Hornsby, Ryan Duffey, James Arp and Will Young,” Bianco said.

“I could not be more grateful for my assistants. I really am blessed to have the type of quality assistants because not every high school coach can say he’s got four guys that have played college baseball. They make my job a lot easier.”

As much fun as 2015 was, the work is already underway for making 2016 an even bigger success. The Braves graduated just two seniors and will have a roster full of players who experienced the ups and downs of the year.

“The theme this summer and going into next year is, ‘Remember how it felt like to lose in Game 3 being two outs away from going to the final four. What did that feel like and what do we have to do to make sure we don’t experience that again?'” Bianco said. “Our guys are hungry, especially having a younger team.”

 

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