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Troup rallies to win district title

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

LAGRANGE – Not long after the Troup National 11-12-year-old all-star team was formed, it took the field for a scrimmage game.

Nothing was on the line other than pride, and it turns out that provided plenty of motivation for the players on the team.

Troup National bounced back from a big deficit in that game to beat Roanoke, and head coach Curt Longshore felt it was a testament to the character of the players.

“Early on, we had a scrimmage game against Roanoke, and we were down seven runs and we came back,” Longshore said. “You saw right there how much it mattered to the boys.

That’s why, when Troup National found itself trailing by four runs in the championship game of the Dixie Youth Baseball district tournament on Wednesday, Longshore wasn’t concerned.

His confidence wasn’t misplaced.

Troup National shrugged off a four-run deficit to beat Taylor County 11-5 to claim the district title.

Troup National scored three runs in the fourth inning to get within a run, and it broke through for seven runs in the bottom of the fifth to take control.

“When they jumped out 4-1, I knew we weren’t done,” Longshore said. “We just had to go up there and not change our approach, and just start chipping away, and we did.”

Colton Esposito, who entered the game with two outs in the top of the third, pitched 3 1/3 dominant innings to get the win in relief of Trevor Booton, who started and threw 2 2/3 innings.

Troup National finished the tournament with a 4-0 record, and it and Taylor County will both participate in the Dixie Youth Baseball state tournament.

Taylor County did a nice job of reaching the championship game after losing its tournament opener to Troup National.

“After the first game, they battled their way back,” Longshore said. “They had all the motivation in the world, and they were looking to knock us off.”

For three innings, Taylor County appeared poised to perhaps beat Troup National and force a winner-take-all game on Thursday.

Troup began to fight its way back in the bottom of the fourth, though.

Preston Pressley got it started with a base hit, and Booton followed with a single to put men on first and third.

After Booton stole second, Esposito’s groundout drove in a run and cut Taylor County’s lead to 5-2.

Next up was Blake Sheppard, and he ripped the ball to left field for an RBI single, and on the same play, he came around to score after a pair of throwing errors.

Troup National didn’t score again in the inning, but Taylor County’s four-run lead was down to one.

In the top of the fifth, Esposito shut Taylor County down with three straight strikeouts, and Troup National surged ahead in the bottom of the inning.

Bryson Monteith got things started with a base hit, and Steven Hill stepped to the plate representing the go-ahead run.

Hill hit a groundball on the infield, and when the throw to first got away, Monteith came home with the tying run.

Hill never slowed and kept running, and when a throw to third went awry, he slid across the plate to give Troup National a 6-5 lead.

Troup National wasn’t done.

Dallas Pearson reached on an infield error, and he moved to third on a base hit by Rocky Pemberton.

Pearson and Pemberton later scored on the same wild pitch, and Troup National’s lead was 8-5.

Troup National scored its next run thanks to more aggressive base running.

Jimmie Jackson reached on an error, and he later stole home to extend Troup’s lead to 9-5.

With two outs, Booton doubled and Esposito was hit by a pitch, and Sheppard followed with an RBI single to put Taylor County in a 10-5 hole.

Avery Hewell capped the rally with an RBI single, and Troup National took an 11-5 lead to the final inning.

Longshore said his hitters took great approaches to the plate in the fourth and fifth innings.

“We preach protect with two strikes, make contact, and just put it in play,” Longshore said. “If you put the bat on the ball, it’s better than striking out. You don’t know what can happen.”

Esposito, with the help of a diving catch by Pemberton in center field for the second out, set Taylor County down in order in the top of the sixth to end it.

TEAM MEMBERS: Preston Pressley, Colton Esposito, Trevor Booton, Blake Sheppard, Avery Hewell, Gryson Cockrell, Steven Hill, Bryson Monteith, Dallas Pearson, Rocky Pemberton, Jimmie Jackson and Lane Christie. Curt Longshore is the head coach, and the assistant coaches are Glenn Jackson and Jackson Shelnutt.