Tigers power way into state quarterfinals
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The game wasn’t over when Colton Webb launched a ball into the stratosphere and over the left-field fence for a three-run home run, but it kind of felt that way.
After rallying from an early four-run deficit to beat Perry 9-4 on Monday night, Troup returned to the field for an 11:30 a.m. start on Tuesday as it looked to complete a series sweep and advance in the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The Tigers took charge from the get-go, surging to a 7-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Troup was already ahead 3-0 when Webb, Troup’s senior catcher, stepped to the plate with two men on, and moments later as the ball cleared the fence with room to spare, that lead was doubled.
The Tigers continued to pull away from there, and they eased to an 11-0 victory to sweep the best-of-three series and advance to the third round.
Troup (29-3) will face the winner of a series between North Oconee and Druid Hills with a trip to the semifinals on the line.
“Even though we won, we didn’t play well early in the (series opener), and they did a couple of good things,” said Troup head coach Tanner Glisson. “Today, we came out hot from the get-go and put seven on the board, and we pitched it well, caught it well. It’s 11-0 in five innings and a sweep, so we’re excited about moving on to the quarterfinals at 29-3.”
The Tigers wasted no time jumping on the Panthers, sending 11 batters to the plate in the first inning.
While it might not have been a knock-out blow, the Panthers were no doubt on their heels after giving up a seven-spot in the opening inning.
Webb said “it was very big” to take control early.
“They were already down, and tired from traveling and it was a late game last night, and it was early today,” Webb said. “We knew the earlier we got on them, the more pressure we could put on them.”
The Tigers added single runs in the third and fourth innings before capping the scoring with two runs in the top of the fifth.
When Perry didn’t score in the bottom of the fifth, the game ended because of the run rule, and Troup added another winning chapter to what has already been one of the finest seasons in the history of the program.
“I’m proud of our team,” said Brett Haynes, who started and pitched four shutout innings. “I like what we’ve got going. I want to keep going as long as we can.”
As has been the case throughout the season, the pitching was exceptional for the Tigers.
Haynes, a hard-throwing right-hander, did what he was supposed to do armed with a big lead, and that’s throw strikes.
Haynes issued one walk but was otherwise in control of the strike zone.
“Brett just comes in and throws strikes,” said senior center fielder Hunter Kitchens. “He knows we’ll make the plays for him. He’s very confident in his stuff, and he comes in and pumps strikes.”
For Haynes, knowing he had a seven-run cushion before throwing his first pitch eased some of the playoff stress.
“When it’s like that, I know I can just pitch to the batters, not worry about putting men on base,” Haynes said. “I can just throw strikes.”
Devon Murphy, another member of Troup’s gifted pitching staff, worked a scoreless fifth inning to finish it.
Offensively, Tre Mosley had another big game for the Tigers.
After coming through with two doubles in Monday’s win, Mosley had two hits and two RBIs in the series clincher.
Webb, in addition to his three-run home run, also had a sacrifice fly to finish the game with four RBIs.
Haynes helped himself with a hit and two RBIs, Josh McDonald had two hits, Mason Atkinson had a hit a walk and two runs scored, Kitchens walked and was hit by a pitch, Reed Morris was hit by a pitch while scoring a run, Murphy walked and scored a run, and Cole Cummings scored a run.
It was an absolute team effort, with everyone who appeared in the game contributing to the victory.
“That’s the number one thing that paves the way for our success,” Kitchens said. “We get out here every day, and we just play for each other. Everybody plays for each other, and we want to make the plays for our guys on the mound. It’s the same thing in the box. If somebody doesn’t get somebody in, the next guy wants to pick them up.”
When Tuesday’s game began, it was about 12 hours after the previous day’s game ended.
The Tigers showed no signs of fatigue, though, as they worked their way through the lineup in the opening inning.
Haynes led off with a walk and later scored on an error, and Mosley had a two-run single to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
After Kitchens was hit by a pitch, Webb got a 2-1 pitch he could handle, and he delivered the first home run of his high-school career, and Troup led 6-0.
Atkinson kept things going with a bunt single, and he later stole home to cap the scoring, and the Tigers had a commanding 7-0 lead.
“We came out this morning, we were ready to go, and we got that jump on them,” Kitchens said. “That set the tone.”
The Tigers padded their lead with a single run in the third inning.
Mosley led off with a double, and he came around to score on Webb’s sacrifice fly.
The Tigers scored another run in the fourth inning, with Murphy coming home when McDonald reached on an error with two outs.
The Tigers finished their scoring with two runs in the top of the fifth.
With men on second and third with two outs, Haynes lined the ball into center field for a base hit, and two runs scored, giving the Tigers an 11-0 lead.
Perry got a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth, but a double play ended it.
Morton caught a line-out at second base, and he flipped the ball to McDonald at first base for the game-ending double play.
Troup will find out who its quarterfinal opponent Wednesday or Thursday.
North Oconee and Druid Hills are scheduled to play a doubleheader on Wednesday, and if needed, a third game would be Thursday.
Whoever the Tigers play, they’ll be ready.
“We treat everybody the same,” Kitchens said. “Whoever’s in front of us, we’ll focus on the next job.”