published Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Baseball Pirates have a new goal

Spring Fling baseball

Tuesday

Class AAA

At Oakland High, Murfreesboro

Soddy-Daisy vs. Farragut, 7:30

Class AA

Polk County vs. opponent TBD

Class A

At Riverdale High, Murfreesboro

South Pittsburg vs. Eagleville, 5

Division II

At Wilson Central, Lebanon

Baylor vs. Christian Brothers, 5

It is time, South Pittsburg baseball coach Wes Stone told his team, to reset goals.

The Pirates, having endured only two losses in 2011, are headed to the state tournament beginning Tuesday in Murfreesboro.

“We had three team goals to start the season. The first was to win the district, the second to win the region and the third to qualify for the state,” Stone said. “The only thing we talked about [Friday] afternoon was that it was time to set a fourth goal. Baseball is a little different from football. In baseball if you get [to the state] you have a chance to win.”

The Pirates advanced to the eight-team Class A field with a five-inning victory over Jackson County and will play Eagleville on Tuesday afternoon.

Three other Chattanooga-area teams also advanced and will play Tuesday. Baylor will open at 5 p.m. against Christian Brothers in Division II at Wilson Central in Lebanon, Soddy-Daisy will meet three-time defending champion Farragut In Class AAA at 7:30 at Murfreesboro Oakland and Polk County will go against a AA opponent to be announced. That bracket was being held pending the outcome of Saturda’s game between defending state champion Gibbs and Greeneville.

One of South Pittsburg’s advantages will be its pitching staff headed by 10-0 Hunter Giles, who has an ERA of 0.81 and has 92 strikeouts to his credit. However, the Pirates have seven pitchers who have thrown at least 15 innings including hard-throwing left-hander Jacob Toney, who missed part of the season with a broken hand, and nine Pirates have at least one pitching win.

“You hope, considering the quality of teams we’ll see, that you can stay with the first five or six guys,” Stone said. “We have a lot of guys that can do different things, but when we get down the line in pitching some moves we’d have to make hurt us defensively.”

Matt Allen became the Pirates’ No. 2 pitcher while Toney was out and has a 6-2 record, but Jacob Howard and Michael Allen have “four or five wins, too,” Stone said.

Polk County rode the arms of Jared Allen and Tyler Lee through the region and sectional, but it was the bats that were quite alive in Friday’s five-inning sectional win over Livingston Academy.

“Everybody knows about the big three (Allen, Lee and Michael Hargrove), but it has been the unsung guys just as much this year,” Polk coach Bill Triplett said. “Jim Bob Maples was an all-district player as a sophomore, and we started hitting for him 10 games into the season. He could have pouted and sulked, but I never saw it. He said, ‘I know my role. Let’s go,’ and he has been a tremendous defensive first baseman for us.”

Then there is diminutive second baseman Brock Raper, who stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 130 pounds.

“He’s hitting about .240, but he has an on-base percentage of .460,” Triplett said. “And then there are guys like [catcher] Collin Wimberley, who is a true leadoff guy, and Justin Webb, who hits in the 2 hole. The big three are important, but the other guys make this team go, too.”

Triplett told pitchers and catchers to come in Saturday morning at 11, and the entire team showed up.

“These are guys that people want to be around, the type people that all good clubs have,” he said.

Baylor coach Gene Etter didn’t want to compare teams he’s had over the years but had good words to say about his 2011 team that had 27 hits in two sub-state games against Pope John Paul II on Thursday.

“I gave them the day off Friday and I happened to go by our new facility and there were several of them in there working out,” Etter said. “This has been a great group to work with. They work hard.”

Soddy-Daisy almost got to the state last year, dropping a close sectional game at Coffee County. The Trojans haven’t been allowed to forget it, coach Jared Hensley even buying T-shirts for this year’s team members that simply had the number 6.

“We were ahead 9-6 with six outs to play, and we didn’t finish the job,” he said. “We ended every day with six sprints, or if we were lifting it was six sets of six.”

The Trojans have had both good pitching and good offense.

“This whole season we’ve had a few games where pitching dominates, a few where hitting has won games and a few where defense made the difference,” Hensley said. “And there have been games, especially lately, where we have pitched, we have hit and we have played good defense.”

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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