Locals lead Atlanta Crackers into Sunbelt title series

Long one of the mainstays of the Sunbelt Baseball League, the Atlanta Crackers hope to add to their legacy when they take on the 6-4-3 DP Cougars in Game 1 of this year’s SBL Championship Series tonight at 7:15 at Norcross High School.

The Crackers (20-10), who have boasted no fewer than nine former Gwinnett high school players on its roster throughout the season, claimed the 40th championship in its history in the league — from its days in the Stan Musial League to its current incarnation as a college summer wood bat league — when they won the East Division this season.

And they hope to ride strong performance from the likes of former Parkview and future Texas Southern infielder Marquis Webb, who won this year;s SBL batting title with a .389 average, and former Hebron Christian and soon to be Georgia State pitcher Kevin Burgee, who had a 3-1 record with three saves and a 1.55 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings, to the league title.

“This league’s really turned,” said longtime Crackers manager Kevin Meistickle. “It’s pretty even, … so you really have to get after it every night. Webb’s won the batting title, and he’s really come on. Burgee’s come in so many times and shut the door, he’s become our closer. … Others have also stepped up. (Former North Gwinnett infielder) Ryan Hagan has done a solid job for us at shortstop. (Former Mill Creek catcher) Jerad Curry’s done a great job. We’re just playing well.”

Aside from Webb, Burgee, Hagen (7 RBIs, 10 SB) and Curry (.333, 17 RBIs), other former Gwinnett players who have made big contributions to the Crackers’ success this season include former Collins Hill infielder John Topoleski (.314, 6 RBIs) and former Norcross, and current Tusculum, pitcher Chris Raasch (1-1, 1 save, 3.57 ERA, 29 K, 22 2/3 IP).

After tonight’s opener, Game 2 will be played Friday at 7:15 p.m. at Aviation Park in Marietta, with a third game, if necessary, back at Norcross High School on Saturday at 1:15 p.m.