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Todd HolcombTodd Holcomb

Baseball: Bremen 24-0 … Locust Grove wins region in thriller … Kennesaw Mtn, PeaRidge on hot streaks … Grady overcomes obstacles

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Mark Clark has won 510 games and a state championship (1990) in 30 seasons as Bremen’s baseball coach, but he’s never been unbeaten in the regular season – until now.

The Blue Devils of Class AA will enter the state playoffs 24-0. The only other undefeated Georgia team is nationally ranked Lambert in Class AAAAAA.

Bremen, ranked No. 1 the Georgia Dugout Club and No. 3 by the AJC, is unusual as a state contender for two reasons.

One is that the Blue Devils haven’t hit a home run. Bremen’s fences are fairly deep (360 feet to center, 330 down the lines), but it’s mostly because that’s just not the kind of team it is.

The other unusual feature is that the team lacks a major college signee. The team’s only current recruit is senior shortstop/pitcher Taylor Shumake. He’s hitting .393 with 25 RBI while batting third.

Only two other seniors get a lot of playing time. The others are pitcher J.D. Brown (9-0, 1.92 ERA) and outfielder Will Thompson (.443).

A key junior is pitcher Chase Trader (7-0, 0.44 ERA). He has 45 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 31.2 innings. The leading hitter is junior first baseman Andrew McInvale at .553 (26-for-47). He has 22 RBI. McInvale played on the JV team as a sophomore.

‘’This team just feels like they can win,’’ Clark said. “It started out the very first game of the season. We were down 1-0 going into bottom of seventh against Model and ended up getting a double and knocked in two runs to win.’’

Later, against Heard County, Bremen didn’t get a hit until the bottom of the seventh and trailed 2-1 with two outs and two strikes on a batter, then scored two on a single and an error to win 3-2. There have been six one-run victories.

In 2013, Bremen lost in the second round to Lovett 4-2 and 5-3. Lovett went on to win the title. Clark knows that is the kind of team Bremen would have to beat to go deep in the playoffs. Bremen’s deepest recent playoff run was the third round in 2009.

‘’Our kids feel like they can play with them,’’ Clark said. ‘’But that’s the big question. We’ve got to get over that hump.’’

Clark started at Bremen in 1982, when he met his wife, Deborah, a Bremen native and kindergarten teacher. Clark said the couple probably would retire together in a year after one more baseball season.

Locust Grove wins region with walk-off hit

Locust Grove beat Griffin 1-0 with a walk-off hit on Thursday in a game that decided the Region 4-AAAA championship. Locust Grove, ranked third in AAAA, had runners on first and third with one out when Trey King’s single scored Austin Harris. Tyler Sellers (4-0, 0.22 ERA) threw six innings, struck out five, walked one and gave up four hits. Sellers also was 3-for-3 at the plate with two singles and a double in the seventh. He’s hitting .410 with 12 doubles and 24 RBI. Another top player for Locust Grove is Cortez McDowell, a former AJC Super 11 football player who has signed to play defensive back for Tennessee. McDowell is batting .460 with 30 hits and five triples. Drew Young, who has signed with Southern Union, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 31.1 innings. Dalton Kuhn, who has several college offers, is 3-1 with a 0.94 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 22.1 innings.

Griffin star WR is batting .500

The Griffin-Dutchtown game matched two highly recruited football players. To counter McDowell, Griffin has junior Keyston Fuller, a four-star football recruit at wide receiver, is Griffin’s leading hitter this season with a .500 average (38-for-76) with seven extra-base hits. He has stolen 16 bases. Griffin, ranked fifth, is 19-5-1 overall, 17-2 in Region 4-AAAA. Also hitting over .400 are junior Cornelius Randolph (.486, 30 runs scored) and Quantico Dodson (.427, 3 HR, 10 SB).

Kennesaw Mountain on hot streak in Region 4-AAAAAA

Seventh-ranked Kennesaw Mountain of AAAAAA has won 10 straight Region 4 games, including home sweeps over Harrison and Hillgrove. The team ERA over the past 19 games has been 0.86. Each of the top four pitchers have ERAs under 1.00. Of particular note is Zack Goodman, who has not allowed an earned run in over a month. He’s averaging 1.5 strikeouts per inning. ‘’ Zack’s dominating fastball and wicked curve has been a devastating combination,’’ Kennesaw Mountain coach George Hansen said. Leading the offense are Reggie Pruitt (.507, 29 SB), Tyler Stephenson (.438, 26 RBI) and Zack Teem (.377, 17 RBI).

Peachtree Ridge sets school record for runs scored

Peachtree Ridge, ranked eighth in AAAAAA, has set a school record for runs scored in a season with 194 in reaching the state playoffs for the fourth straight year. The Lions (17-8) are hitting .342 as a team. Senior outfielder Drew Wharton, a Clemson signee, is batting .434 with 29 RBI and 23 runs scored. Also hitting over .400 is senior shortstop Steven Tomlinson, a North Georgia signee, at .403 with 22 RBY and 27 runs. Other regulars include junior C/DH Nick Gatewood (.373), senior OF Blake Best (.338), senior second baseman Jared Stedman (.328, LaGrange College signee), junior outfielder Derek Huff  (.317) and junior middle infielder Tyler Murphy (22 runs, 7 steals). The pitching staff is led by Jordan Lee (7-1), Craig Williams (5-2) and Nick
Neidert (3-2).

No field, no problem: Grady headed to playoffs

Grady finished second in Region 6-AAAA and will get a home playoff series for the first time in years. It won’t be on campus, though. Grady practices and plays its home games at Crim, taking a bus. It’s only five miles, but with a bus involved, it can take 30 minutes. Grady has no baseball facilities except a rusted-out batting cage in a parking lot. When it rains, the team goes to Perkerson Elementary, where coach Mark Davidson teaches, and practices in the gym. ‘It becomes very challenging, but we don’t make excuses,’’ Davidson said. Luke Leonard, a Georgia State signee, is hitting .306 with six extra-base hits. Two seniors have been outstanding on the mound. Liam Henry has a 0.61 ERA over 34.2 innings. Peter Mastin has pitched 12 scoreless innings. Grady also has a pair of impressive sophomores – Davis Schwartz (4-0, 1.93 ERA) and Charles Bailey (3-0, 1.31 ERA). Schwartz is hitting .366 with seven extra-base hits and 12 extra-base hits.

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