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Union Grove closes out banner season

By Anthony Rhoads

It was a year to remember for the Union Grove Wolverines baseball team.

The squad, in just its third year of existence, challenged for a region title, qualified for state and then advanced to the Sweet 16 of the Class AA state playoffs.

"We set our goals for the season and one goal was to win the region," Union Grove head coach Vic Gongola said. "We finished second in the region and made state. We had many opportunities this season. We'll just reload for next year."

Union Grove's season ended Thursday after losing to Adairsville (7-0, 10-7) in the second round of state. The Wolverines closed out the 2003 season with an 18-9 record, which doubled the team's win total from last year. Two years ago, the team won just one game in its first season.

The seniors have been with the squad through it all and laid the foundation for the team's success this season. Gongola stressed that the team's eight seniors (Colt Lynn, Derek Staats, Jay Morris, Greg Brooks, Clint Neville, Jason Powell, Ryan Fawbush and D.J. Schmelz) have set the tone for the future of the program.

"That's a great group of seniors," he said. "They had a great experience and they're a group of unselfish players who have played as a team."

Gongola expects next year's squad to follow the example that has been set by the senior class of 2003.

"We have some good guys who were on the bench from this season," he said. "They're going to come through for us next year and they've been important in helping us advance this year."

Union Grove accomplished quite a bit in 2003. The team was runner-up in Region 5-AA, losing only two league games to champion Blessed Trinity.

The team held its own against Henry County opponents, going 1-3 against Eagle's Landing and Stockbridge. The Wolverines also picked up their first win against a Henry County team in school history when they beat Eagle's Landing, a squad that's still alive in the Class AAAAA playoffs.

The team got its first perfect game in school history earlier in the year courtesy of Neville. Neville's perfect game came against region foe Paideia in April.

Union Grove even got its first triple play in school history this season (which came against Pace Academy).

"It was a season of firsts," Gongola said.