LaGrange’s 10-0 loss to Pace (Fla.) Friday in the opener of the 2018 La-Grange Toyota Invitational embodied more than the team’s season-long struggle. Netting only two wins on the year, the Grangers’ on-field performance has begun to shape the team’s identity. For Granger fans witnessing a second-straight shutout, disappointment in the program’s trajectory was almost tangible.
LaGrange, playing across from a banner displaying the Grangers’ 2004 state championship team, failed to defend their home turf to an out-of-state opponent. For many, the irony cuts deep. Long-time Granger fans now remember a proud baseball program that their children may not.
The team’s continued struggle to win validates fears of an overall decline in the athletic department after an abysmal showing of the Granger football team in the fall. Even casual onlookers notice a growing disparity in the quality of LaGrange’s program and that of its incounty rivals. The story on the sidelines, however, was one of hope. While acknowledging the surface plausibility of a decline, devoted spectators attributed the team’s underwhelming season to its youth. Discussions with fans and parents revealed their belief that the team lacked experience—not talent.
LaGrange head baseball coach David Smart seemed to agree. “We are very young,” he said after the game.
Smart, however, made no attempt to excuse his team’s performance. “We didn’t play well in any phase of the game,” he lamented before expressing his hope that the team would use this loss as motivation to beat Johns Creek in the second round of the tournament.
One positive of Friday’s game comes from the scoring breakdown. The Grangers’ allowed only three runs in the final half of the game— compared to seven in the first half—earning the team a moral victory by shoring up some of the major defensive problems of the first half.
In many ways, this positions LaGrange’s loss to Pace as an eventual microcosm of the team’s season. With plenty of games left to play, Granger fans have no need for panic just yet. While it may be too late to salvage the team’s record, the Grangers may be able to reverse course and restore their reputation.
LaGrange will continue in the tournament against Johns Creek at 7:30 PM on Friday, March 2nd and against First Academy (Fla.) at 10:00 AM on Saturday, March 3rd.