Lanier wins first playoff series in school history

ATLANTA — Four years ago Lanier’s baseball team went 4-21.

Those days are over.

The Longhorns defeated Grady 6-2 on Saturday to win the school’s first playoff series and advanced to the second round of the Class AAAA state tournament next week. Lanier will host LaGrange.

“What a huge win,” Lanier head coach Chad Longe said. “Our players and parents have sacrificed so much to get this program started from 2010 until today. I am so happy for all of them. To earn 20 wins, that is a sign of a good season”

In a scoreless game, the third seeded Longhorns (20-9) wiggled out of a jam in the bottom of the third. Grady had runners on second and third but Lanier starter Trenton Little induced a fly ball to end the inning.

The Longhorns broke out in the top of the fourth. T.J. Richardson reached on an error and Matthew Ramsay doubled to right field putting runners on second and third. Grady pulled the infield in and Lanier displayed its aggressive attitude when Little hit a ball to the shortstop. The moment the ball was released toward first, Richardson raced for home and scored. The throw pulled the first baseman off the bag allowing Little to reach. After a strikeout, Kristoff Rietig singled to right center, scoring Ramsay and Little to make the score 3-0.

“Kristoff struggled early in the season,” Longe said. “I’m so happy for him. He is doing a great job.”

The score held until the bottom of the fifth when the Knights scored twice, as Lanier committed two errors which led directly to both runs.

Clinging to a 3-2 lead, the Longhorns responded immediately in their next at bat in the top of the sixth. Ramsay crushed a hit that went over the center fielders head for a triple. Little’s single made the score 4-2. Again displaying an aggressive style, later in the inning, Bryan Gropp laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt which brought home Anthony Valvo.

“We wanted to be aggressive,” Longe said. “We had a double steal, the play where Richardson scored, the squeeze play and other stolen bases. We wanted to put the pressure on.”

Up 5-2, Lanier added one more run in the sixth when Chandler Burrow drew a bases loaded walk to plate Gropp.

Then it was up to Little (6-2) and Tyler Tillman to shut the door on the Grady hopes.

Little pitched until there were two outs in the sixth and was replaced by Tillman. Little gave up five hits, no earned runs and struck out four. Tillman struck out two and when second baseman Cameron Coursey fielded a groundball and flipped to Ramsay for the final out the Longhorns had earned the right to practice and play in next week’s second round.

“Our pitchers did such a great job this weekend,” Longe said. “Trenton was outstanding today. Tillman was in a groove and we gave up only three earned runs all weekend.”

There undoubtedly will be other playoff teams in Lanier’s baseball history, but the 2014 team will always be the first.