Memorable season for Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
What a ride it’s been for the Troup Tigers.
The Tigers have not only won the Region 2-AAAA championship, but they’ve ascended to the top of the state rankings in one poll, and they’re also closing in on the program’s all-time record for wins in a season.
The Tigers continued their memorable journey with Monday’s 5-0 victory over the rival LaGrange Grangers, a win that sewed up the region title.
The Tigers improved to 23-3 overall and 10-0 in the region, and they’re three wins away from setting the record for wins.
Troup can reach 25 wins with two wins over Jordan on Wednesday, and it can set the record with a victory over Lafayette Christian in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
Troup opens the state playoffs with a home series against New Hampstead on Tuesday.
Leading the way is first-year head coach Tanner Glisson, and he’s grateful for the way the players embraced him when he took the job late last year.
“I appreciate them doing that,” said Glisson, who is also Troup’s head football coach. “That makes the transition a lot easier. I’ve learned in 22 years some things not to do. I think we kind of mixed it up just right this time.”
The Tigers closed in on the region title with Friday’s 2-1 road win over the Grangers, and they made it official with Monday’s 5-0 victory.
Brett Haynes and Devon Murphy combined for the two-hit shutout, and the Tigers got it done offensively as well with three runs in the second inning, and two more in the sixth.
Ethan Morton had two hits and two RBIs, Colton Webb had a two-run single, Josh McDonald had two hits and was hit by a pitch, Daniel Martin had an RBI, and Tre Mosley had a hit and a run scored.
Like so many of Troup’s wins this season, the formula was a familiar one. The pitching was outstanding, the defense was superb, and the offense came through with timely hits.
When the final out was recorded on a Murphy strikeout, the celebration was on, with the players changing into custom-made championship T-shirts.
“This means a lot, especially being a senior and losing last year,” said Tre Mosley, reflecting on a 2020 season that ended prematurely because of COVID-19. “We’ve been working through the summer, and it’s going up from here.”
Mosley has enjoyed playing alongside teammates who have come to feel like family members.
“This senior year, it’s been great vibes,” Mosley said. “We’ve bonded, and we’re like brothers. It’s the best of the best. We grew up together, we played together before. It’s been fun. It’s like travel ball when we were 12.”
In winning the region title, Troup went a combined 4-0 against Columbus and LaGrange while taking care of business against the lesser teams.
“(Winning a region title) means a lot,” Haynes said. “It’s big for us. It gives us a boost of confidence, and tells us we’re doing good.”
It helped that Haynes was on the mound for Monday’s showdown.
The right-hander has been a lock-down pitcher all season, and he handcuffed LaGrange’s hitters. Haynes pitched six innings and gave up two hits and no runs, and he had six strikeouts.
“I thought Brett was really good,” said LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch. “He did a really good job commanding his off-speed pitches. In scouting, he hadn’t always done that.”
Murphy, who pitched three shutout innings in Friday’s game, finished things off with a perfect seventh inning.
“We have all the confidence in somebody like Devon to come in and slam it shut,” Glisson said.
In the games against LaGrange combined, Troup’s pitchers gave up just one run, and they’ve thrown 11 straight scoreless innings.
“We didn’t really give them a chance to get in the game today,” Glisson said. “Throwing that zero up on the board was good. Giving up one run to these guys in 14 innings was pretty dag-gum good.”
Haynes didn’t have much stress, but he was in a jam in the top of the fifth inning.
LaGrange had the bases loaded with one out, but Haynes got a strikeout and a pop-out to end that threat.
The Grangers only had one base runner in the final two innings.
Haynes, and all of Troup’s pitchers, benefit from a defense that makes the routine and spectacular plays alike.
“It’s comforting,” Haynes said. “I know I can pitch to contact, and I know they’ll make plays for me.”
On the flip side of that equation, the players in the field have nothing but faith in Haynes.
“Brett’s just Brett,” Mosley said. “He’s that guy. When he gets in that mode, he’s tough to beat.”
Haynes got all the support he’d need in the second inning when the Tigers plated three runs.
McDonald got things started with a base hit, and Mosley followed with a double to put men on second and third.
Morton then put a two-strike pitch in play and legged out an infield single to drive in the game’s first run.
Two batters later, Webb came through with a two-run single, and Troup led 3-0.
That’s the way it remained until the Tigers scored two insurance runs in the sixth inning.
McDonald was hit by a pitch leading off, and two batters later, Morton drove the ball to the fence for an RBI triple, and Troup led 4-0.
Next up was Martin, and when the throw went home on his groundball, Morton slid in safely with Troup’s fifth and final run.
Murphy only needed 10 pitches to retire the side in the top of the seventh, and the celebration was on.
“We’ve got a good baseball team, and I’m proud of them,” Glisson said. “We’re very close to breaking the all-time wins record. It’s 25. So if we get to 26, we’ll be feeling good.”