Determination, desire lifted Warhawks' to state title - Doug Gorman

LEESBURG--Until Tuesday afternaoon, I had never been to Lee County. All I knew was it was located near Albany. I also knew, its high school baseball team was good, very good.

As a sports writer, I don't often read websites and fan message boards. In my opinion, some of that can be a conflict of interest. One thing is clear, however, few fans outside the Southern Crescent gave Henry County too much of a chance to beat the Trojans here in the Class AAAA state title series.

Admittedly, I wasn't sure myself. On paper, Henry County had all the reasons in the world to be a huge underdog. The Warhawks didn't advance to the state title series until Saturday, beating Heritage in a series that was four days behind because of rain. Lee County had plenty of time to rest, having finished its semifinals series on Memorial Day with a sweep of Evans.

But the Warhawks proved you can throw out all the old-time baseball theories concerning pitching on short notice. It didn't matter. The Warhawks played six games in seven days and posted a 4-2 record down the stretch.

Simply put, this was all about "want to."

The Warhawks willed their way to the baseball team's first state title with a never give up attitude that carried them throughout the season, especially the playoffs.

To me, the most amazing fact about the Warhawks' run to the state title was every game was on the road.

Starting with sweeps at Bainbridge and Statesboro, the Warhawks sent a message to the remaining Class AAAA field.

Then they went to Marist and swept the War Eagles when freshman short stop Blake Newalu hit a two-out, bases-loaded double in the bottom of the seventh to give the Warhawks the victory.

Newalu was just one of the heroes during the playoffs. With this team it was somebody different stepping up every night. Matt Clark pitched well, but also came up with some big homers.

Jason Heyward also pitched and came up with some big hits too. Heyward delivered the game-winning hit in the third game of the championship, but was quick to pass the credit to other members of the team. Jeremy Hardy did a great job in relief, and even got the win in the final game.

Greg Lindsey chased down several fly balls, and also pitched when needed. Greg Huff also came up with a big home run in the third game against Lee County. Scott Robinson also came up big. Coleton Segars also did hit part hitting in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

The glove of Kyle Price also kept the team in each game. Cam Wilder and Tyler Norton did an outstanding job as catchers.

Even those players who didn't play a whole lot can take something from this historic series, because they played a par too.

And just when you didn't think the series couldn 't get more Hollywood, freshman pitcher Jeremy Boyd enters the game in the seventh and picks up the save.

Much of the credit for this team has to go to first-year coach Troy Baker, who never let his squad give up. Even when they lost four games to open the season, Baker kept a positive approach.

But the best job of coaching came when his team fell behind by six runs in the final game with Lee County. Baker kept lifting his up with positive feedback, and the team rallied with eight runs.

As Henry County celebrated its state title, Baker said he hoped this was the start of many state titles for the Warhawks.

I wouldn't bet against it.

Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Daily. He can be reached at dgorman@dailyherald.com