Baseball: Third-ranked Luella gives southside hope of a AAAAA title

The state baseball champion in Georgia’s highest classification has come from Cobb, north Fulton or Gwinnett each season since 2003.

The team best positioned to break that stronghold this season is probably Luella, a 9-year-old school in Henry County that has averaged 21 wins since joining Class AAAAA in 2006.

Luella’s best state finishes during that time have been no better than the quarterfinals in 2010 and 2011, but this could be coach Andy Cooper’s best team. It is 13-3, ranked No. 3 behind Parkview and Etowah and led by Tennessee-signee Vincent Jackson, a pitcher and clean-up hitter. Luella was ranked No. 15 nationally in one preseason poll.

‘’We’re probably a little deeper in pitching than have been,’’ Cooper said. “It’s just a matter of swinging the bats at the right time. You still have to hit. But unless we commit mistakes, I don’t think people are going to score a lot of runs on us.’’

Only two of 16 opponents have scored more than three runs in a game against Luella so far.

Jackson, potentially a high draft choice, will pitch Friday at East Coweta, the third-place team in Region 2. Luella is 8-0 in the region and beat East Coweta 3-0 on March 6, when Jackson had 14 strikeouts. Jackson (4-0, 1.04 ERA, 40 strikeouts, 27 IP) throws only in the high 80s, but he’s 6-foot-4, which scouts like. He’s also a left-handed hitter.

‘’We’ve had a lot of scouts, even an assistant GM for a major league team,’’ Coooer said. “He definitely fits their body protocol. He’s not overpowering by their standards, but his body gives him the potential to be up in the 90s.’’

Luella’s No. 2 starter is Matt Kelly (3-1, 2.24 ERA), who has signed with Southern Union, a junior college in Alabama. The No. 3 is Kendal Hill (3-0, 1.40 ERA), who was missed last season because of a labrum tear. He’s also a college prospect.

The top hitters are Jackson (.386, 6 doubles) and four-year starter Chase Scott (.488, 10 extra-base hits in 43 AB), a third baseman who owns every school record for hitting except triples.

Also hitting well are John Goodman (.292), Reise mcdaniel (.333) and Eric Pape (.333).

Luella lost in the quarters last year to Parkview, the eventual champion and the current No. 1-ranked team. Cooper says there are some southside teams, including fourth-ranked Newnan from Luella’s region, that could break through.

‘’I think we’re becoming more competitive,’’ Cooper said of southside teams. “I still don’t think we’re probably as deep in the region as they are up there. They may see better competition day in, day out than we do, but I think the top three or four teams in Region 2 can compete with anybody.’’

7 comments Add your comment

Reality Check...

March 30th, 2012
11:23 am

North Gwinnett smoked Luella 9-3. Luella will never win a state title. And coach Cooper is dreaming if he thinks Luella’s region sees just as good of competition every game like Parkview and Brookwood does, or Mill Creek and North Gwinnett. Luella is made up around one player. All you have to do is take Jackson out of the equation and you’ll win. Seriously though North Gwinnett handled Luella fairly easy when they were #2 and I can promise you that the top four teams in region 7 or 8 could handle them as well.

Johnny Cash

March 30th, 2012
2:58 pm

previous blogger says ” Luella will never win a state title “. What an idiot. Its kinda hard to win when a team commits 6 errors ( as Luella did against N. Gwinnett). Just a bad defensive game and we all know everybody has them every now and then.

Devil's Advocate

March 31st, 2012
11:03 am

Agree to Disagree on this one, but two things seem evident. One game can’t tell the outcome of a season, but then again Luella’s region is fairly weak so we will have to wait and see. I think North Gwinnett is looking solid, but Parkview is still the team to beat.

Bobby Cox Jr.

March 31st, 2012
11:06 am

One thing we can all agree on is that the AJC needs MORE baseball coverage. High school hoops is over so change the headline story and talk about the tight region races going on.

garyc42

April 1st, 2012
9:40 pm

I will agree with Bobby cox jr.Basketball season is over.Its time you give High school Baseball some much well deserved exposure.

garyc42

April 1st, 2012
9:44 pm

How about them East Coweta Indians.They came from behind friday night to beat Luella.

Reality Check...

April 2nd, 2012
1:45 pm

Another loss for the “last-hope” Luella team