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A's prepare for state tournament

POSTED: July 20, 2009 9:40 p.m.
Scott Rogers | The Times/

Gainesville A's shortstop Trey Pinson turns a double play as Dawsonville's Blake Sargent slides into second in a game last month at Ivey-Watson Field.

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The Gainesville A’s appearance in the 2009 American Legion state tournament may be a curtain call for coach Clay Haynes.

Haynes plans to step down at the end of the season and coach part-time next year. His last tournament as head coach begins at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the No. 8-seeded A’s face No. 9 seed Loganville Post 233 at Hunter Park in Douglasville.

Luckily, the postseason has been generous to the Lakeview Academy alum and former Augusta State third baseman. Under Haynes’ watch, the A’s have made it to the state semifinals three consecutive seasons, including a second-place finish in last year’s tournament.

But the A’s fourth straight bid for a semifinals appearance won’t mean placing in the top four of an area tournament to qualifying for the state playoffs, as it used to.

This year, area playoffs have been eliminated, which has Gainesville beginning postseason play in a 10-team double-elimination state tournament from Wednesday-Saturday.

“This is a new way they’re doing it this year,” Haynes said. “They’re not doing any area tournaments. Everybody goes to state.

“We’re not sure how it’s going to work out.”

The new playoff format could work in Gainesville’s favor. The A’s biggest struggle this season has been against area opponents — Dawsonville, Alpharetta and Canton — whom Gainesville finished 4-8 against.

“It’s been just a big mess,” Haynes said.

Without having to play an area tournament, The A’s will face new opponents rather than the same teams that troubled them throughout the regular season. Gainesville played Loganville only twice this year, and won 12-9 the last time the two teams met on June 17.

It also helps that the A’s are coming off a recent string of wins to end the regular season, led by consistent production of North Hall High grad Trey Pinson and Flowery Branch grad Bucky Free in the third and fourth spots in the batting order.

Brad Stone, a rising senior at Flowery Branch, has been a force on the basepaths as a leadoff hitter, while North Georgia Christian’s Ryan Farmer has provided Gainesville with depth in the bottom half of the batting order.

Andy Edmondson, an Abraham Baldwin signee, Matt Pilgrim and James Mills lead the A’s starting pitching staff. West Hall’s Max Everitt, Chad Goff and Luis Delgado will likely see time on the mound in the playoffs as well.

“We ended up winning there towards the end,” Haynes said. “There are a certain few guys that come out every game.”

Should Gainesville make an early exit from the tournament, the next A’s coach will still have plenty of players to assemble a team with next year. American Legion players are eligible to play until their sophomore year of college, meaning that only three current players will be too old to play next year.

“They should make the best of it (the tournament) and enjoy it,” Haynes said. “Leave it all on the field.”


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