Troup in position to compete for title

Published 12:44 pm Thursday, March 30, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – It wasn’t a good day for the Troup Tigers.

After getting a big road win over the LaGrange Grangers to improve their region record to 2-1, the Tigers were at home against Central-Carroll in a game they figured they should win.

It didn’t work out that way.

Central-Carroll scored three runs in each of the fifth and seventh innings to capture a 6-5 road win over Troup.

The loss left the Tigers at 2-2 in the region, and they were faced with the prospect of playing the powerful Cartersville Purple Hurricanes on their own field the following day.

The Tigers responded like champs.

Behind a phenomenal pitching performance from Colby Williams, Troup beat Cartersville 1-0, and it followed that up with a 3-1 victory over Sandy Creek on Tuesday.

The back-to-back wins have greatly enhanced the Tigers’ position at the midway point of the Region 5-AAAA schedule.

Troup (13-8 overall) is in a three-way tie for second place in the region at 4-2, and it is just one game behind first-place LaGrange.

With six region games to go, Troup has put itself in position to possibly win a second straight region title, although there’s clearly a lot of work left to do.

“I feel like every game gets bigger and bigger,” said senior pitcher Jarred Helton, who got the complete-game victory against Sandy Creek on Tuesday. “In this region, you just never know. The bottom team could beat the top team. Every game is big.”

That includes today’s home game against Chapel Hill, which is in last place in the region at 0-6.

Chapel Hill is not a pushover, though, as it showed when it lost to Troup 7-6 on March 14.

“The biggest game is Thursday,” Helton said. “They’re 0-5, but we beat them in extras, so you never know.”

The one constant for Troup has been its pitching.

Williams and Helton give the Tigers a formidable one-two combination on the mound.

While Williams has been terrific in region wins over LaGrange and Cartersville, Helton has been in command against Cedartown and Sandy Creek.

Against Cedartown, Helton threw arguably his best game of the season, but Troup lost 1-0.

Helton struggled a bit in the 7-6 loss to Central-Carroll, but he was on his game against Sandy Creek.

Remarkably, in his past four starts, Helton has only issued one walk, and that came against Sandy Creek.

In three of those starts, Helton has given up one or fewer earned runs.

“He’s been throwing good,” Troup outfielder Brantly Robinson said. “We know he’s going to throw strikes, and we don’t have to worry about him walking people.”

While Troup head coach Craig Garner knew what he had in Williams before the season started, he wasn’t sure who else he could rely on to fill a starting role.

Helton has been that man.

“The last four starts, you couldn’t ask for anything better,” Garner said.

Offensively, it has been a struggle at times for the Tigers, although they’re finding ways to score runs.

Against Sandy Creek, Troup was limited to four hits (two by Ryan Bliss), but it scored three runs.

Robinson had a major hand in two of those rallies.

In the third inning, Robinson singled, he moved up on sacrifice bunts by Kenly Bridwell and Helton, and he scored on a wild pitch.

In the fifth inning, after Camren Russell walked, Robinson had a sacrifice bunt, and Russell scored on an error.

Garner said it was a typical performance for Robinson, who has contributed in a lot of different ways offensively.

Garner said one of the ways hitters are measured is with a positive-negative chart, which is an indication of how effective an at-bat someone has.

“We do a positive-negative chart,” Garner said. “We post that, and he’s second on the team with our positive-negative points, and he gained probably another seven or eight points today.”

After today’s home game against Chapel Hill, Troup will be on the road against Cedartown.

Troup will then take a break from region play before hosting LaGrange on April 11.

“We’re in great position, we’re just taking them one game at a time,” Garner said.