There is a week in every baseball season when a team either puts up or shuts up. This is that kind of week for the LaFayette Ramblers.
Unfortunately, in Region 7-AAA these weeks come more often than coaches would prefer, and in this case it couldn't have come at a worse time for the banged-up Ramblers.
LaFayette (7-7, 5-4) has been the early surprise of what is undoubtedly the toughest Class AAA region in the state. However, the Ramblers entered Thursday night's showdown with Heritage minus three starters, making an already difficult stretch nearly impossible. A tight 3-2 loss to the Generals only made the next few even more important.
Following Heritage (9-2, 6-2), which was ranked 10th last week before losing to fifth-ranked Cartersville (10-2, 7-1), LaFayette was to face seventh-ranked Ringgold (10-3, 7-1) on Monday and eighth-ranked Allatoona (10-4, 6-2) on Thursday. Though there is the possibility of falling out of the playoff race, first-year coach Torrenti also sees a great opportunity.
"This is a solid region from top to bottom, and everybody makes a big deal out of the top three teams, but anybody in this league can beat you," said Torrenti, whose team won four consecutive 7-AAA games before losing 4-3 to Gilmer County on Monday. "To say the least, there has been some adversity laid out in front of us. However, it's a good opportunity to overcome it, and how much fun would it be if we did it?"
The Ramblers are without leadoff hitter Caine Elliott and second baseman with hand injuries, while first baseman Josh Manning is out for the season after being diagnosed with benign bone cancer.
While the Ramblers may know their postseason fate in a few days, the region figures to again to go down to the final week before it's settled.
"It's the usual mess right now," Ringgold coach Brent Tucker said. "We have two teams with one loss, two with two and three more right below the top four. The first half is basically a wash, and I have no doubt it's going down to the final game again."
The top four teams have each beaten the other, with Ringgold downing Cartersville and Heritage, Cartersville defeating Heritage and Allatoona, Heritage beating Allatoona and Allatoona defeating Ringgold. Gilmer (5-3 in league play) and Cedartown (4-4) join LaFayette as potential spoilers.
"There haven't been a whole lot of surprises so far, but the one thing that sticks out to me is that you better be ready to play or you will be beat," Heritage coach Eric Beagles said. "In this region you have to show up with a sense of urgency and you better execute. We're in pretty good shape right now, but there's still a lot of work to do."
The other 10 coaches would agree.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...