Special season ends for Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
BOGART – The Troup Tigers felt like they had a team that could win it all, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Facing a formidable North Oconee team in the third round of the Class AAAA state playoffs, Troup’s season came to a close with a pair of road losses on Monday.
After dropping the first game 13-3, Troup had the lead into the sixth inning of game two before falling 5-1.
The second game was interrupted by a delay of more than 30 minutes because of an issue with the lights at the stadium.
“We didn’t play our best, and it happens,” said Troup head coach Tanner Glisson. “Only one team’s going to win this whole thing. We thought we had a shot, and we played really hard. We’ve got a good baseball team, and we’ll be back. We’ve got a good core group.”
It was a disappointing conclusion to one of the finest seasons in the history of a program that has enjoyed plenty of success over the years.
The Tigers went 29-5 and set a program record for wins in a season, they captured the Region 2-AAAA championship with an unbeaten record, and they reached the final eight of the state playoffs.
Leading the way were a group of seniors who embraced a new head coach in Glisson and helped the team enjoy a special season.
The seniors include starters Hunter Kitchens, Colton Webb, Tre Mosley and Ethan Morton, as well as Cole Cummings, Will Noles, and Nic Philpot.
“Those seniors have done so much for us,” Glisson said. “I just told them in there (after the game), I did everything in my power to take them out on a winning note. That was the big thing. That mattered a lot to me.”
Game one was a difficult one for the Tigers, who found themselves in a 13-1 hole after two innings.
The Tigers hung tough after that and scored a pair of runs in the fifth inning to get within one, but they couldn’t overcome the massive early deficit.
Troup did some damage against North Oconee ace Bubba Chandler, who had been unhittable through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Tigers had four hits while scoring three earned runs against Chandler, and that was a bright spot in a game that didn’t have many of them otherwise.
The Tigers had some defensive breakdowns that led to nine unearned runs.
“You’re facing a number one draft pick (in Chandler), and we had six strikeouts, but we put the ball in play,” Glisson said. “We didn’t catch it, and that’s not like us.”
The Tigers got an RBI single from Morton in the first inning, and Josh McDonald had a two-run single in the fifth inning.
Devon Murphy had a big game with three hits with a double and two runs scored, and Morton and McDonald had Troup’s other hits.
Mason Atkinson walked twice and scored a run, and Kitchens also reached on a walk.
Grayson Goodbee and Braedon Smith had home runs for North Oconee.
Daniel Martin started on the mound for Troup and pitched 1 2/3 innings, and Tripp Cummings threw the final 2 1/3 innings.
In game two, the Tigers lost despite getting an outstanding pitching performance from Brett Haynes.
Haynes took a no-hitter into the sixth inning when North Oconee broke through for a pair of runs to take a 2-1 lead.
North Oconee got three key insurance runs in the seventh inning on a three-run home run by Gavin Black.
The Tigers took the lead with a run during a fourth inning that ended up lasting about 40 minutes because of the delay due to the lighting issue.
Reed Morris reached on an infield single leading off, and McDonald followed with a base hit to put runners on first and second.
Next up was Morton, and he got a bunt down, and when the first baseman couldn’t make the catch, pinch-runner Cole Cummings scored from second to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
With one out, Kitchens walked to load the bases, and that’s when an umpire pulled the teams off the field as one of the banks of lights went out.
It took more than 30 minutes for the issue to be resolved, and when play resumed, a strikeout and a pop-out ended the inning, and the Tigers couldn’t add to their 1-0 lead.
Neither team scored in the fifth inning, and North Oconee went to work in the top of the sixth.
Chandler led off with a single, the first hit against Haynes, and Phillip Ard followed with an RBI triple to tie the game.
Ard later scored on a wild pitch, and the Tigers trailed 2-1.
Devon Murphy, in the game in relief of Haynes, got a fly-out with the bases loaded for the third out, keeping the Tigers well within striking distance.
The Tigers threatened to tie it or reclaim the lead in their half of the sixth inning.
McDonald was hit by a pitch leading off, and he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Morton.
After back-to-back walks to Kitchens and Webb, the Tigers had the bases loaded with two outs, but that threat ended when McDonald was thrown out trying to steal home.
After Black’s three-run home run over the right-field fence in the top of the seventh, Troup came to bat in the bottom of the inning needing four runs to pull even.
Atkinson led off with a base hit and Reed Morris walked with two outs, but a groundout ended the game, and the series.
Atkinson finished the game with two hits, Murphy, Morris and McDonald each had one hit, and Kitchens walked twice.
Haynes was fantastic on the mound, pitching 5 1/3 innings, and he gave up three hits and two runs, all in the sixth inning. Murphy pitched the final 1 2/3 innings.
“Today wasn’t our best, but they’re a good ball team,” Glisson said. “They’ve got a chance to go win the whole thing.”