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Rainstorms wash out Union Grove-Buford

By Anthony Rhoads

The Union Grove Wolverines were prepared to take on Buford in the first round of the Class AA state baseball playoffs Friday but Mother Nature had other plans.

After heavy rainstorms Thursday night, Union Grove's baseball field was unplayable Friday and the best-of-three series was postponed until today.

The games have been rescheduled for today at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Eagle's Landing High School. If needed, game 3 will be played Monday.

"One of the frustrating things about this season has been the weather," Union Grove head coach Vic Gongola. "Our field does not drain well. I appreciate (Eagle's Landing head coach) Blake (Lyons). He's willing to do everything he can to helps us out."

Union Grove enters the state playoffs as the No. 2 team out of Region 5-AA. The Wolverines lost only two region games and those were to champion Blessed Trinity.

Union Grove is 17-6 overall, which nearly doubles the win total from last year.

One of the keys to success this year, Gongola said, has been the group of eight seniors including Colt Lynn, Derek Staats, Jay Morris, Greg Brooks, Clint Neville, Jason Powell, Ryan Fawbush and D.J. Schmelz.

"They're a good group and they're all coachable. It's rare to get such a good group of kids," Gongola said. "You've got guys who are willing to fight for each other and pull together through thick and thin. They see what their roles are and they accept that. They're not all starters; some are DHs; some are pinch runners; some come and pitch a few innings when we need them to."

Gongola has enjoyed this season and admits that it's going to be difficult when it ends.

"Of the 19 years I've been coaching, this group of kids has been the best I've worked with and they've been the easiest to deal with," he said.

Union Grove isn't quite ready to end its season just yet even though the team has achieved the goal of making it to state.

"Our goal this year was to win region and make the playoffs," Gongola. "We didn't quite achieve the goal of winning region but we made state. We're here to win but we're also here to build young men who will go out and be productive in society."

Gongola expects a tough first-round series against Buford.

"They're competitive and are No. 3 out of their region," he said. "They've got some guys who can hit the ball well. They're fundamentally sound."

Union Grove is in its third season and won just one game two years ago. Last year, the team improved and was in contention for a playoff spot in a tough Region 4-AAAA.

Gongola is glad to see his team progress and to hold its own against the other Henry County teams. This season, Union Grove, along with Eagle's Landing and Henry County, are the three Henry County representatives in the state tournament this year while Stockbridge barely missed making the tournament.

"Why do you think I schedule Stockbridge and Eagle's Landing?" said Gongola. "If we can hold our own with those teams, I know we're going to be pretty good. You're not going to find any better teams than the ones in Henry County."