CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — With a combined record of 58-4 and having outscored their playoff opponents by 113 runs, the two teams left standing in the GHSA Class A public school baseball playoffs are the best, according to someone with firsthand experience.
Gordon Lee (29-2) and Charlton County (29-2) will settle the championship in a best-of-three series beginning today with a 1 p.m. doubleheader just outside the Okefenokee Swamp. Trion just returned from there after losing 6-0 and 15-0 to Charlton County in Monday's semifinal series.
But even after that beating, Trion coach Jason Lanham believes Gordon Lee's Trojans have the upper hand.
"They're solid and very tough to beat down in the swamp," said Lanham, whose Bulldogs lost 13-5 and 12-2 to Gordon Lee during the regular season. "The bus drive alone is going to take its toll. If any team is equipped for it, though, it's Gordon Lee. I like their pitching depth, which I think will be the difference in the series.
"I think the two best teams in Class A are getting ready to settle it. "
Charlton County boasts two strong starting pitchers in Ryan Young and L.J. Talley, while Gordon Lee has ace Conard Broom and a bevy of arms that coach Mike Dunfee doesn't hesitate to put on the mound, including Branton Phillips, Jake Rogers, Zach Cobb, Landon O'Neal and Tucker Bradley.
Dunfee believes that mound depth will come into play.
"It's going to be tough," he said. "They're a quality team that finished [state] runner-up last year, so we know they're going to be just as hungry as we are. It's also going to be fun to be a part of, and I think it will go three games. If it does, I feel good about our chances because we are very deep in pitching."
The pitching has been solid all year, but it's the hitting that has stood out in the postseason. The Trojans have played just 31 innings in their six wins yet have scored 84 runs. The lineup features high-contact hitters such as Adam Vandiver and Conner Coakley at the top of the lineup and Daniel Brooks and Cody Wilson at the bottom and plenty of pop in between.
"We just try to have good at-bats," senior catcher Tanner Sexton said. "Even if we can't get a hit, we want to put it in play and make things happen. It's worked for us all year, so we won't change anything this weekend."
The Indians, according to Lanham, have plenty of firepower themselves at the top of the order in Jacob Baxter, Talley, Young and Jesse King.
"Those first four are as good as we've seen all year," the Trion coach said. "Also, they played spectacular defense against us. They made one error in two games and they made five diving catches in the outfield to take away hits. It's also a very rowdy atmosphere, but I still think Gordon Lee has the edge."
If Dunfee is correct in his prediction of three games, the Trojans may also have an extended weekend. The deciding game three is scheduled for Monday at 1.
"Hey, I don't care if it takes a month," Dunfee said with a laugh. "We're just ready to play."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...