Class 4A: North Oconee wins first baseball title
North Oconee won its first state baseball title Friday night with a two-game sweep of LaGrange.
North Oconee rolls to first baseball championship
North Oconee head baseball coach Jay Lasley has been dumped with the water cooler a few times after guiding his teams to region baseball titles.
But even he admitted that getting doused Friday night after his Titans captured their first state baseball championship in school history felt a little different.
"It did feel pretty good," Lasley said.
And to North Oconee baseball supporters, this one felt really good.
The nationally-ranked Titans swept past LaGrange High Friday night at Advent Health Stadium in Rome to capture the school's first state baseball championship. The Titans rallied in their final at bat in Game 1 to steal a 3-2 victory, then took the nightcap 9-5 to sweep the Class 4A series in the best-of-three Georgia High School Association Class 4A championship round.
"The thing about these kids is they set the tone for this season last fall," Lasley said. "They put the work in the weight room and we could tell this was going to be a special group. From the first meeting, we wanted them to understand we wanted to be in the state championship (series). The chemistry these guys had and the love they had for each other, I don't think they wanted to let each other down. That in itself made this a very good team .... a very special team."
North Oconee (39-1) ended the season on a 39-game winning streak. But that streak did appear to be in jeopardy in Game 1 when LaGrange took a 2-0 lead in the top of third on Seth Stargell's RBI double.
North Oconee cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the third on Braden Smith's RBI single, but the Grangers (31-12) took a one-run lead into the bottom of the seventh.
With one out in the inning, KJ Moon singled, then scored when Bryce Toci's RBI double tied the game at 2. Following a pitching change, Jack Fabris' bunt single put runners on first and third before Justin Byrd's sacrifice fly allowed Toci to score the walk-off game-winning run.
Gavin Black earned the victory in relief of starter Ben Stuart, who went six innings and got a no-decision. Smith led North Oconee at the plate with two of the Titans' six hits.
In Game 2, LaGrange took an early 1-0 lead before North Oconee's five-run third inning gave them a commanding 5-1 lead.
LaGrange, however, rallied to tie the game at 5 in the bottom of the third.
Kyle Jones' bunt single in the top of the fifth scored Grayson Godbee, giving the Titans the lead for good. They then added three insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Black worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh inning to close out the victory.
Fabris, Godbee and Cale Stricklin finished with two hits apiece in North Oconee's Game 2 win.
North Oconee, ranked as high as sixth nationally by Baseball America, hasn't lost since the second week of the regular season when they dropped a 9-6 decision to Class 6A Lassiter.