Troup competes in tournament

Published 2:25 pm Monday, March 13, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

EMERSON – They held their own.

The Troup Tigers were part of an elite field in the Perfect Game High School Showdown at the LakePoint complex in Emerson near Cartersville.

The Tigers finished with a 2-2 record, and they pushed the defending tournament champions to extra innings before falling short on Friday night.

It’s the second straight season the Tigers have competed in a tournament.

After traveling to Florida for the IMG National Classic a year ago, Troup stayed closer to home this year, and head coach Craig Garner said it was a terrific experience.

“It was great,” Garner said. “Honestly we probably enjoyed it even more than IMG last year. It was great competition everywhere you looked. There was Parkview over here, there was Blessed Trinity, there was Cullman, and Sparkman, which won it last year and is top 20 in the country.”

Troup opened tournament play with two impressive wins on Thursday.

After beating Lewisburg (Miss.) 9-2, Troup earned an 18-8 run-rule victory over First Presbyterian Day from Macon.

On Friday evening, Troup’s opponent was Sparkman (Ala.), which won the tournament in 2016.

Troup led 5-1, but it was Sparkman rallying for the 7-5 victory in a game that went extra innings.

In its final tournament game on Saturday against Brookwood, Troup fell behind 9-0 in the first inning on the way to an 11-1 loss.

More than 20 Troup players got some time on the field, and that included a host of pitchers, some of whom had little or no varsity experience.

“We took 24 guys, and I think probably 20, 21 got into a ballgame,” Garner said.

Troup played the entire tournament without using sophomore Colby Williams, who has developed into the staff ace.

After throwing eight innings in a 2-1 victory over Callaway last week, Garner decided to save him for the start of Region 5-AAAA play this week.

“We’re trying to get him set up for region play,” Garner said.

Jarred Helton, who’ll be a key member of the pitching staff during the region schedule, did throw during the tournament, and he delivered what Garner called a “phenomenal” outing.

In the opening game against a strong Lewisburg team that has won multiple state championships in Mississippi in recent years, Helton pitched a seven-inning complete game as Troup won 9-2.

Helton also helped himself at the plate with a double and an RBI.

“He was phenomenal,” Garner said. “He faced 28 batters, and he had 22 first-pitch strikes. He just kept them off-balance all day.”

Of the 69 pitches Helton threw, 52 of them were strikes, and he didn’t walk anybody.

Trent Bailey headlined the offensive effort with three hits and three RBIs, Williams had two hits and two RBIs, and Cooper Doughman had a hit and an RBI.

In Troup’s second game, it overwhelmed First Presbyterian 18-8 in a game that ended after five innings because of the run rule.

Bailey had another big effort at the plate with three hits and two RBIs, Ken Truitt had two hits and three RBIs, and Ryan Bliss had two doubles, three walks, and two RBIs.

Brantly Robinson also had two doubles, Kenly Bridwell had a hit, a walk and three RBIs, Doughman had a hit and two RBIs, Joseph Calhoun had two RBIs, and Cade Garner knocked in a run.

“We hit the ball very well,” Garner said.

Robinson started the First Presbyterian game and he pitched three innings to get the win, and Daniel Swann, Calhoun and Garner each recorded two outs during their stints on the mound.

Garner, the final pitcher used, needed just six pitches to get the final two outs in the top of the fifth.

On Friday, it was Troup vs. Sparkman.

Things started out well for the Tigers, who led 5-1 after two innings, but they ended up falling 7-5 in eight innings.

“We jumped on them hard, and their pitcher settled in and they started chipping away,” Garner said.

Bliss had two hits, including a triple, and three RBIs for the Tigers, Williams had a double and an RBI, and Robinson had a base hit and an RBI.

Truitt got the starting assignment for Troup, and he pitched three solid innings, giving up no hits and one run.

Luke Swanson worked the next two innings and gave up one run on three hits, and Colton Greathouse threw the final three innings and allowed two runs.

Truitt, a senior outfielder, had never pitched in a high-school game of any kind, while Greathouse hadn’t pitched in a varsity game.

In the Brookwood game, Troup was out of it early.

Brookwood was ahead 11-0 after two innings, and the game ended after five innings.

Troup’s lone run came in the top of the fifth inning.

Bailey singled and moved to third on Doughman’s double, and Cade Garner followed with an RBI groundout.

Garner, pitching in relief of Bliss, did a solid job during his 3 1/3 inning on the mound, giving up two runs on three hits.

Troup, which will play mostly region games from here on out, will take a 9-5 record into Tuesday’s game at Chapel Hill.

Considering the strength of schedule and the number of key players lost from last year’s team, Garner is pleased with where the team is standing.

“Looking at it to start the season, we thought if we could win four games that might be realistic,” Garner said. “To be 9-5, I’m pretty pleased with it considering the competition we played.”