GAINESVILLE, Ga. — East Forsyth baseball coach Kyle Counts knows his team has a fierce competitive drive.
That drive has taken the Region 8-4A No. 3 seed farther than most would have predicted. It also catapulted the Broncos to a huge 8-6 series win against second-ranked and No. 1 seed Holy Innocents' on Monday.
Now, the second-year program will travel to Region 4-4A champion and 2022 Class 4A runner-up LaGrange (28-8) on Friday in the Class 4A quarterfinals best-of-three series -- a first for Forsyth County's youngest program. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.
"Our kids are tough and compete their tails off," Counts said. "That's something we always try to coach and talk about. We want our guys to understand that the game is played through seven innings. We have preached that all season, and that helped us on Monday."
The Broncos (22-12) have won the last 7-of-8 games, including 4-of-5 in the playoffs. Timely hitting, huge home runs and a bend-but-don't-break defense have been the Broncos' ingredients in the playoffs.
Oh, and Logan Pedretti, yeah, he's blazing the playoff trail with his bat. The senior outfielder is hitting .380 in the playoffs and has 14 RBIs and four home runs, including a massive grand slam on Monday that pushed the Broncos to the 8-6 Game 3 win over Holy Innocents'. He also leads the team in slugging percentage (.684), home runs (8), RBIs (32), and co-leads in on-base plus slugging percentage (1.165 OPS -- 15 or more hits).
"Logan is locked in right now. He's seeing the ball well. He's hitting it well," Counts said. "He's been a spark plug for our offense throughout the playoffs. It's not just the home runs, but the other balls he's putting in play that's helping us win games."
The Broncos have scored 34 runs in the playoffs, with Lucas Kniola, Mathew Lyons, Trey Farr, Pedretti, Wyatt Barden, Joseph Gurr, Zach Aschoff, Chace Hall and Owen McGee pushing runs home.
Counts said he'd like to see more consistent scoring production throughout the game but is pleased with how the team finds ways to get the runs across the plate.
"You know, it can be up and down. We scored seven runs against Holy Innocents in Game 1 in the first two innings, then went cold for the next five. In Game 2, we got our runs in two or three innings. In Game 3, we scored in two innings," he said. "So, it's not like we're scoring runs in every inning, but we're finding ways when we get base runners to rally and keep things going."
East Forsyth's playoff success has much to do with the brutal Region 8-4A schedule this season. The Broncos played four combined games against No. 1 Cherokee Bluff and No. 2 North Oconee. The region had six teams with 18 or more wins, including a down-to-the-wire race for the final four spots.
"I think when you play four games versus the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the state, you find your weaknesses, and they expose them," he said. "Then you can work on them and get better at them. Then going into a playoff series, I think your kids and coaches are assured that you're not going to face anybody that you haven't already seen -- a team that is so powerful or has the best pitching. We faced two really good pitchers in the playoffs so far and were able to handle them because we had seen great pitching throughout the season."
The Broncos still have "best team in Class 4A" in their sights. However, it won't come easy on Friday as they'll face their toughest test in the playoffs against last year's Class 4A runner-up Grangers.
The Grangers have won 12 in a row and outscored their two playoff opponents, Spalding County and Shaw, 39-9. They also have a solid infield and bullpen led by Auburn-commit Trevor Booton.
"They're a solid ball club," Counts said. "They are very fundamentally sound. They have a quality arm in the Booton kid. They are going to bunt and run and have great two-strike approaches. Top to bottom, they are extremely well-coached, fundamentally sound, and will be very tough to beat."
So far, the road has been good for the Broncos, and so has the underdog tag. Counts said a game is a game, and they'll play where ever. As for the underdog tag, he likes that, too.
"Honestly, I don't think our team plays better at home or on the road, so I don't think that hurts us as far as where we go and play," he said. "A game is a game, and we're going to go play it. Underdog, yeah, maybe you get to have a little bit nastier mentality, mentally and emotionally. You feel like you have less to lose, especially being a young second-year program. You feel like anything you're doing is better than you've done in the past. We want to play the best baseball we can, let the chips fall, and give it all we've got."