Playoff time for Tigers
Published 2:05 am Wednesday, April 24, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Everything the Troup Tigers have been doing for the past four months, the workouts, the practices, the weight-room sessions, the meetings, the games, has been leading up to this.
It’s playoff time, and the stakes will never be higher.
Troup, which finished second in Region 5-AAAA, will host St. Pius X, the number three team from Region 8-AAAA, in the first round of the state playoffs.
They’ll play a doubleheader on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., and if needed, a third and deciding game would be on Thursday.
One of those teams will be moving on to the round of 16, while the season will come to an end for the losing team.
Many of Troup’s players have been here before, and they know what it’s like to appear in the pressure-cooker of the playoffs.
“You have these guys that have more than one or two years of experience, and they can go back and lean on those experiences. They know what it’s like in that atmosphere,” said Craig Garner, Troup’s veteran head coach. “This is it. This is your season. There is no tomorrow. This ain’t travel ball. There’s not another World Series next weekend.”
Troup’s team is a mixture of veterans, some of whom have been starting for three or four years, and newcomers about to get their first taste of playoff baseball.
Troup’s player with the most experience is senior Colby Williams, who has been starting for four years.
Williams has been the staff ace since he was a sophomore, and he has anchored the pitching staff once again this spring.
Another one of the seniors is catcher Cooper Doughman, a three-year starter.
Caleb McCurry, Cade Garner, Colton Webb and Ethan Morton were all starters last season, and senior Trace Meadows also played a lot last year.
Each of those players has played a key role on this year’s team from a defensive standpoint, and in the lineup.
Senior Garrett Casey was instrumental to last year’s success, but he has been unable to play this year because of an injury incurred in the offseason.
Casey teamed with Williams to give Troup one of the state’s best pitching duos last season, and he was also a key member of the lineup.
Even though Casey hasn’t played this season, with the exception of a brief appearance in right field on senior day, Williams said his presence has still been felt.
“He’s never missed a practice, hasn’t missed a road trip,” Williams said. “The guy’s here every day. Whatever they ask, he does it. He’s the best leader we’ve got on this team.”
With Casey unable to play this season, senior Jackson Knox has held down the number two spot in the rotation, and he has been outstanding.
Knox’s best performance came in a 4-1 home win over Cartersville when he threw a complete-game five-hitter.
Williams and Knox will pitch Wednesday’s games, and if the series goes to a game three, Garner has plenty of options.
Colton Webb showed what he’s capable of when he threw a one-hitter in a 4-0 victory over Chapel Hill.
A pair of freshmen, Daniel Martin and Carson Garner, have also pitched effectively.
All of Troup’s players, whether they’re seniors or freshmen, have been tested this season.
The Tigers went 9-3 in the region, but they have an overall losing record because of the challenging schedule they faced.
Four of Troup’s games were in the Perfect Game High School Showdown that featured some of the country’s top teams.
Troup’s opening game was against IMG Academy, which was USA Today’s top-ranked team at the time.
“We’ve played a brutal schedule and have all of those experiences to go back to,” Garner said. “We’ve already faced tougher pitching, and tougher hitting, tougher defenses than you’re going to see in region play, and throughout the playoffs.”
Troup’s first-round opponent is a St. Pius X team that is 10-20 overall and finished third in Region 8-AAAA with a 5-7 record.
Despite the less-than-sterling record, Garner has no doubt St. Pius will be ready to go today.
“Everything I’ve found out so far is coach Chad Garrison does a great job,” Garner said. “He coaches ‘em up. He does his due diligence as well. I know they’ve already scouted two games of ours. They’ll have a plan. They’ll have an idea of how to pitch our guys, and they’ll have an idea of where to play (defensively). And they’re going to have a plan on how they feel like they can score some runs against us.”
Conversely, Garner said “I feel like I have a good idea about them, their strengths and their weaknesses as well, and to some degree it becomes a chess game match with matchups, and position play, and things like that. That’s part of the game I really like.”