State time arrives for Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a new season for the Troup Tigers.
The Tigers put together a remarkable regular season, one of the finest in the history of the program, and they won the Region 2-AAAA championship with an unbeaten record.
The Tigers have turned the page, though, and on Tuesday they’ll begin what they hope will be an extended stay in the state baseball playoffs.
First up for Troup will be a first-round matchup with New Hampstead, the number four team from Region 3-AAAA.
They’ll play a doubleheader on Tuesday beginning at 4 p.m., and if needed, a third game would be played on Wednesday.
If Troup wins that series, it would be at home again in the second round against Cairo or Perry.
“We’ve got a lot on the line tomorrow,” said first-year head coach Tanner Glisson said after leading his players through the final practice before the start of the playoffs. “We can win two games and make it to the second round, and also set the school record for wins in one season. That’s a real good honor for our seniors. Hopefully it’ll be a good day to be a Troup Tiger.”
The Tigers put together a sparkling 25-3 record during the regular season, and they were 12-0 against region opponents.
Troup could have set the single-season record for wins on Saturday, but its games against Lafayette Christian was rained out.
Instead, Troup can reach the milestone if it wins the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against New Hampstead, which is making the trip from Savannah.
“If we get to 27-3, that’d be a heck of a note,” Glisson said. “In my wildest dreams, I never thought we’d be 25-3.”
Two of the most memorable wins came late in the regular season against LaGrange.
After earning a dramatic 2-1 road win over LaGrange, Troup won 5-0 on its home field to wrap up the region title. As the players celebrated, and put on their region-championship T-shirts, they talked about how special of a journey it has been.
“This senior year, it’s been great vibes,” said senior outfielder Mosley said. “We’ve bonded, and we’re like brothers. It’s the best of the best.”
The relationship between the players, Mosley added, goes back to well before the high-school days.
“We grew up together. We played together before,” Mosley said. “It’s been fun. It’s like travel ball when we were 12.”
Josh McDonald, a first baseman who has been one of Troup’s top hitters this season, said winning a region title “means a lot to us.”
“The past two years we didn’t do our best, and we came back with a new coach this year and balled out for him,” McDonald added.
Troup’s recipe for success has been consistent all season.
The pitching has been phenomenal, with Daniel Martin, Devon Murphy, Brett Haynes, Ethan Morton and a few others consistently locking down opposing hitters.
Remarkably, opponents are averaging fewer than two runs per game against the Tigers.
During the two key wins over LaGrange, Martin, Murphy and Haynes combined to allow one run in 14 innings.
The pitchers are backed up by a fantastic defense that makes the routine and spectacular plays alike.
“Our defense, that’s the key to winning games,” McDonald said. “You can’t give runs away.”
Haynes, who threw six shutout innings against LaGrange, said “it’s comforting” to have a consistent defensive behind him.
“I know I can pitch to contact, and I know they’ll make plays for me,” Haynes said.
The Tigers haven’t had any offensive issues, either, averaging close to nine runs per game.
Haynes has settled in as Troup’s leadoff hitter, and Murphy, Reed Morris, McDonald, Mosley, Morton, Martin, Colton Webb and Mason Atkinson complete a potent lineup.
“They’re just good ballplayers that play very well as a unit, and play together,” Glisson said. “And really and truly, we’re young, when you talk about all the sophomores. Our one through four batters are all coming back next year. All of our pitchers except for Ethan Morton are coming back, so we’re in a good position.”
New Hampstead (2-10 overall) finished fourth in a four-team region with an 0-8 record.
If Troup does get past New Hampstead, the road gets a lot tougher after that.
“Hopefully we can get through this one, then you look at Perry and Cairo, and they’re 20-wins teams,” Glisson said. “And then you look at North Oconee, who has a guy going to Clemson. It’ll be a tough draw, but we’ll go play it and see what happens.”
TROUP VS. NEW HAMPSTEAD
WHEN: Tuesday, 4 p.m. (doubleheader); Wednesday, 4 p.m. (if needed)
WHERE: Troup High
WHAT: First round of Class AAAA state playoffs
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Troup finished first in Region 2-AAAA; New Hampstead finished fourth in Region 3-AAAA