Crisp County is seeking to become the first athletic program since 1961 to win a state championship today when the Cougars travel to meet Carrollton in the Class AAAA championship series. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
CORDELE — Bradley Hough doesn’t have an explanation for Crisp County High School’s offensive surge in the Cougars’ three previous playoff games. But the third baseman likes what he sees.
Since Game 3 of Crisp’s second-round game at Walnut Grove, the Cougars’ offense has been hot, as they have combined to score 23 runs, including outscoring Alexander 10-2 in their quarterfinal sweep.
Hough hopes it continues today when Crisp County travels to Carrollton to meet the Trojans in the GHSA Class AAAA state championship series at Cole Field. The first game begins at 3 p.m. with a second to follow.
“Since that third game at Walnut Grove, something clicked and we started hitting,” Hough said. “We started playing our baseball.”
For a team that has relied so much on its strong and deep pitching staff, as well as solid defense, the offensive outburst was a welcome sight. Crisp didn’t overpower Alexander with an onslaught of homers or extra-base hits, but the Cougars did more run-manufacturing in Monday’s semifinals.
Crisp will meet a Carrollton team that can hit as well, play just as good defense and pitch as well as the Cougars. It will be the second straight Region 5-AAAA opponent Crisp will face. Alexander was the third seed from Region 5, while Carrollton finished as the region champion.
But after the Cougars fell short in the state semifinals last season to Marist, the team believes it has something to prove — and it wants to win the state championship for last season’s three seniors (Robert Tyler, Corey Harrington and Gage McMillan) who helped start the groundwork for this year’s team.
“They helped us get (to the semifinals) last year, and we don’t want to come up short this year,” junior pitcher Stewart Tyler said. “You don’t want to come up short, especially after getting this far.”
The Cougars are seeking to become the first Southwest Georgia team to win a GHSA state baseball title since Colquitt County captured the Class AAAAA championship in 2003.
While they’d like nothing better than to win a title for last season’s seniors, Crisp County would like to break a 53-year state championship drought. The last time the school won a state title in any sport was in 1961.
Coach Bill Pate said last year’s pitching rotation, led by current Georgia standout Robert Tyler, may have been stronger, but the 2014 team is stronger offensively and the team’s defense has been a backbone.
“Our offense and defense have been a big part of our season,” Pate said. “But these guys are doing all the little things right.”
Regardless of the outcome, the Cougars admit it has been a special season.
“It’s a great feeling to be playing for a state championship,” Stewart Tyler said. “It’s been a long time since anybody has gotten this far. It would be great for us and the community to win it.”