Courtesy of Christian Smith
The Grady baseball team fell to the Blessed Trinity Titans in the first round of the GHSA State Tournament, finishing the season 14-12 overall.
Despite losing, the Knights believe they gave it their all against the Titans, the No. 1 seed from Region 7AAAAA, according to junior Drew Gossett
“We came out of the gates and hit aggressively in both games, although it wasn’t reflected in the score,” Gossett said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times on defense, which allowed the games to get away from us. We faced some top-tier Division 1arms, but we weren’t intimidated and never lost focus. For that, I’m extremely proud of the group of guys we had this year.”
Head coach Daniel Stockdale said he believed the team had a shot at Blessed Trinity.
“I thought we could win a game,” Stockdale said. “Blessed Trinity is a very talented team, but I believed in our guys and in our preparation. It was disappointing to lose both games, but it was an honor to compete against one of the strongest programs in the state.”
This was the Knights’ first trip to the playoffs since 2011. Stockdale said the two biggest differences between this year’s team and the team in 2011 were Covid-19 and the school’s GHSA classification, which is based on the size of the school and the number of students.
“This time was different for a few reasons,” Stockdale said. “This year’s team had to manage to Covid. We had to practice safe, travel as safely as possible and when the guys were not on the field, they had to stay away from people not in their immediate family so they wouldn’t risk getting the entire team quarantined. Another thing different was Grady is now in a bigger classification.”
Because this was the first time the team made the playoffs in a decade, the players are pleased with how the season played out.
“I am happy with the team,” said senior Christian Smith, who will be playing at Vanderbilt next season. “We were able to make it to the playoffs for the first time in ten years, so that was a pretty big accomplishment. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get past the first round, but making it was a step in the right direction. We were a good group together and did a lot of things right on the field.”
Stockdale said he also feels good about the team making playoffs, and said it was an important year to do so.
“With the name of the school changing next year, this was ‘Grady’s last baseball team ever, so to go out with a playoff berth was special,” Stockdale said.
Stockdale said the strongest quality of the team was its ability to perform well under pressure.
“Overall, our strength was our ability to make key plays on defense and get big hits when we needed it this year,” Stockdale said. “Our pitching staff did an excellent job this year.”
Gossett said the team’s unity is what made it so strong.
“I really think the key to our success this year was our team chemistry,” Gossett said. “Throughout everything that occurred over the past year, all we could think about was seeing one another again and getting after it. All the adversity we faced brought us really close together and [made us] focused on the main goal: making a run into the state playoffs.”
The Knights will graduate three seniors, including Christian Smith, Oliver Kosar and Chase Stokes. Some of the team, including sophomore Sam McFarland, said the seniors played a big role in the team’s success.
“The seniors on our team all played a big role in how our season went,” McFarland said. “They were all leaders to the rest of the team and gave us their knowledge of the game.”
Despite losing seniors, the Knights will gain more freshman and underclassmen from their junior varsity team. Smith said next season’s team cannot take its foot off the gas.
“The teams after this year’s team have to build upon the success we had this year,” Smith said.
Stockdale is looking forward to next season, and like Smith, is hoping for success.
“Those guys will do well next year and give us a chance for a deep run in the state playoffs,” Stockdale said. “I’m proud of them all.”