Epic challenge for Troup
Published 11:20 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
If one national ranking is to be believed, there is no high-school baseball team in the country better than Blessed Trinity.
Baseball America reveals its top 25 teams each week, and when the latest poll was released, Blessed Trinity was sitting at the top.
That’s the challenge confronting the Troup Tigers, who will play Blessed Trinity in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The teams will play a doubleheader today at 4:30 p.m., and if needed, a third and deciding game would be played on Friday.
The series will be played on the Blessed Trinity campus in Roswell.
While it’s obviously a daunting task for the Tigers, they won’t go into the series lacking for confidence.
Troup has put together one of the best seasons in school history, and it will bring a 25-7 record into today’s games.
“Them being number one, it really doesn’t make a difference. You still have to play hard,” said Ryan Bliss, Troup’s phenomenal senior shortstop. “But it definitely fuels our fire. We’re really looking forward to this series.”
Troup finished tied for the Region 5-AAAA championship, but it was the number two seed because of the tiebreaker.
That put Troup on a collision course with Blessed Trinity, assuming both teams could win in the first round.
Troup had no trouble with Ridgeland, with Garrett Casey and Colby Williams both throwing complete-game shutouts in a doubleheader sweep.
Blessed Trinity, the champion of Region 8-AAAA, beat Stephens County 5-2 and 11-0 to advance.
“They’re a solid, fundamental team,” Troup head coach Craig Garner said. “They’re well-coached. They don’t do a whole lot of things to beat themselves.”
While expressing plenty of appreciation for Blessed Trinity, Garner has ample faith in his team’s ability.
“I believe that if we play the baseball we’re capable of playing, then we’re capable of beating them,” Garner said. “There’s not a doubt in my mind. That’s what I truly feel.”
It helps to have two aces in Colby Williams and Garrett Casey.
What they did in the opening-round series against Ridgeland was off-the-charts extraordinary.
In the first game, the left-handed Casey threw a one-hit shutout, and he had 11 strikeouts in an 8-0 victory.
The right-handed Williams was just as dominant in the second game.
Williams threw a two-hitter, and he struck out 15 of the 26 batters he faced while not walking anyone.
Offensively, Troup’s been rolling as well.
The Tigers are averaging more than seven runs per game, and while Ryan Bliss has been a marvel from the leadoff position, everyone in the lineup has been producing.
Caleb McCurry and Williams hold down the number two and three spots in the order, and Cooper Doughman has five home runs from the clean-up position.
Casey, Kenly Bridwell, Cade Garner, Luke Purnell, Ethan Morton and Brantly Robinson have also been effective members of the lineup.
Bliss leads the way.
He has hit eight home runs, and half of those have come leading off a game, and he has a batting average close to .500.
“Everybody can hit,” Robinson said. “Everybody contributes to the team.”
Bliss said the Tigers will go in loose and give it their best.
“We’ll just go in and have fun,” Bliss said. “We’re the underdogs. We don’t have anything to lose. We’ll just go out there and have fun, and try to beat them.”
Whatever happens the rest of the way, it has been a special season for the Tigers, who have one of the best records in the history of the proud program.
“It’s been really fun,” said center fielder Kenly Bridwell, one of three seniors along with Robinson and Bliss. “It’s probably one of the best teams I’ve played for since I’ve been here.”
As for the Blessed Trinity series, Bridwell said “you’ve got to beat the best to be the best.”