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LaGrange falls to Northside in opener

The new-look LaGrange Grangers made their season debut on Wednesday evening on their home field, and they had their hands full with the Northside-Columbus Patriots.

Northside, which won the Class AAAA state championship in 2019 and appears poised to make another strong run this year under new coach Craig Garner, opened its season with an 11-0 win.

After scoring single runs in the second, third and fourth innings, Northside busted it open with six runs in the top of the fifth.

It was the start of a challenging non-region schedule for the Grangers, who had a handful of new starters on the field after the departure of a large group of seniors from the 2020 team.

“We didn’t play well, at the same time, they’re good,” said LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch. “You can play bad teams and get away with it. With our schedule, you won’t win playing like that.”

While there were some veterans in the lineup, including Will Alford, Landon Tucker, Matthew Morgan and Zack Thompson, there were a number of players getting their first varsity start.

Ty Medders, Mason Wolfe, Trevor Booton, Colton Esposito and Seth Stargell are among the players Branch will be counting on to help the team win this season.

“We’ve got so many new guys in the lineup offensively,” Branch said. “We’re trying to figure out who might can hit. Ty Medders almost hit it out. He swung the bat a little bit. Mason Wolfe hit a couple of hard ground balls, and Matthew hit it good.”

Morgan, who is coming off an exceptional 2020 season, was LaGrange’s starting pitcher, and he only lasted three innings because of an escalated pitch count.

Morgan, who threw 75 pitches, gave up three hits and one earned run, and he had six strikeouts and four walks.

“When Matthew was in, they weren’t getting those big swings off of him,” Branch said. “I had to take him out after three. He went 75 pitches in three innings. He went five innings in an intra-squad game the other night and threw 50 pitches.”

Tucker, another veteran pitcher, struggled a bit in his 1 2/3 innings on the mound, and Chase Williams got the final out of the fifth inning when Northside scored six runs.

Booton pitched a scoreless sixth inning, and TJ Wilkerson threw the final inning for LaGrange.

Morgan and Tucker each had a hit for LaGrange, and Alford, Medders and Turner Cook each walked.

For Northside, Conner Sizemore, Connor Trepanier and Justin Veloz combined to limit LaGrange to two hits while striking out 10 batters. Will Bryant and Conner O’Neal each hit home runs for the Patriots, and O’Neal had three hits and three RBIs.

Carson Garner and Cole Garner, who were at Troup last season while playing for their father Craig Garner, also contributed.

Carson Garner had a hit and a run scored, and Cole Garner had an RBI, a walk and a run scored.

Craig Garner had been Troup’s head coach for nearly 20 years before taking over at Northside, and he was pleased with what he saw on Wednesday, especially considering his team’s practice time had been limited because of poor weather.

“We’ve been hitting a lot, so I was proud of them for staying within themselves and not trying to do too much and being patient,” Garner said. “They didn’t try to force the action.”

LaGrange will look for win number one when it hosts Spalding County on Saturday at noon.