Hours after winning championship, 2 LaGrange College baseball players among 3 killed in crash

TROUP COUNTY, Ga. — They and another man were killed in the two-car crash, over the weekend, on Georgia 109 near Paddle Wheel in Lagrange.

“I didn’t believe it until we came outside and saw everybody, all the students in the parking lot,” said Dana Lucas.

Lucas is a junior football player at Lagrange College. He said he didn’t believe the news about two Panther Baseball players killed in a car crash.

“Woke up this morning, the president sent out the message, it was true,” said Lucas.

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The news quickly hit campus.

“I was just like, life is too short,” Lucas said.

Georgia State Patrol Troopers said the accident happened on Georgia 109 near Paddle Wheel Drive in Troup County. A silver 2015 Honda Accord was traveling east, when it passed a gray 2019 Honda Accord in a ‘No Passing Zone.’

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Troopers said the Accord with two passengers inside hit a 2008 GMC Sierra head on. Both the driver of the truck and two people inside the Accord died.

“Stephen was my lab partner,” said Lucas.

Channel 2 learned that two of the people killed in the crash were Stephen Bartolotta and Jacob Brown. Both were members of the Panthers Baseball team. The team just won their conference championship, merely hours before the accident. The university provided Channel 2 with a photo, of the team celebrating their huge win.

Lagrange College Director of Communications and Marketing Dean Hartman said the university as a whole is hurting.

“I really think shell-shocked is probably the best word. It’s such a shock to the system, to go from winning the conference title here and then a few hours later losing two of your teammates,” Hartman said.

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Several of their teammates told Channel 2′s Larry Spruill off-camera that this is a tough situation.

“They’re hurting really bad, they’re just really a close-knit group. Quality bunch of young men, who just worked together, some of them for four years,” Hartman said. “This is their fifth straight conference championship, so it kind of speaks for itself. It’s a quality program, with quality young men, they’re struggling.”

Georgia State Police said they’re not identifying the names of those involved in the crash. Meanwhile, the school is offering counseling for the students and staff.

LaGrange College President Susanna Baxter released the following statement to the students Sunday morning:

I am deeply saddened to make you aware that we have suffered the loss of two students last night. Baseball players Steven Bartolotta and Jacob Brown were both killed in a tragic car accident.

Coming on the heels of the team’s conference championship win yesterday, this news hits our baseball players especially hard. There simply are no words...

We will walk through this together as a campus family with God as our strength. Please support one another as the caring community that I know we are.

—  President Susanna Baxter

Just three hours before the deadly crash, the LaGrange College baseball team defeated North Carolina Wesleyan College and won the conference title. The team advanced to the NCAA Division III national tournament.

Panthers win! Men’s Baseball defeats North Carolina Wesleyan 10-7 to take the conference title and advance to the NCAA Div III national tourney. #LCPantherProud

Posted by LaGrange College on Saturday, May 14, 2022

GSP says the crash remains under investigation.

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