VARNELL, Ga. -- If there is a down side to the heights reached by the first-year Coahulla Creek baseball team, it's that coach Michael Bolen admits he is spoiled by the early success.
Thursday's 3-1 victory over North Murray -- the Colts' seventh consecutive win -- improved them to 14-5 overall and 9-4 in sub-region 7B-AA and clinched a berth into next week's region crossover state tournament play-in round as the sub-region's second or third seed. Though Bolen preached to his team before the season that anything was possible, to see it become a playoff program so quickly had the coach smiling.
"We've got a lot of baseball yet to play, and we want to keep playing the game that got us here," Bolen said. "The guys have displayed great poise. In four of the wins, they've come back from the sixth inning or later. They're zoned in, and it's a great thing as a coach to look in your players' eyes and just see it, to know that they want it and they're focused. I don't have to give a pumped-up speech or anything."
Thursday's win was typical of the magical season. No one player stood out and the team managed only five hits. However, the Colts made the plays when they had to, at the plate and in the field.
In North Murray's third inning, the Mountaineers (9-11, 6-7) scored their run on Tyler Ramsey's single and had a runner on third with one out. Zach Penland hit a slow comebacker to the mound, and pitcher Tucker Sheram charged and scooped it to catcher Scout Plott in time for the out. Sheram stranded two more runners in the fourth and fifth innings.
The Colts finally got to North Murray starter Jared Campbell in the fourth when Levi Williams tripled home a run with out one and scored on Tyler Higgins' sacrifice fly. They added a run in the fifth on two errors. The defense shone again in the sixth when Campbell led off with a walk against reliever Josh Swinford, but a slick 6-4-3 started by Blake Phillips killed the threat, and Swinford worked around a walk in the seventh to record the save.
"We played hard and we made the plays we had to," said the junior Phillips, who had nine defensive assists. "We believed we could do it. We're very excited to make the playoffs in our first year. It's tough to make the playoffs any time, but especially in your first year."
In his postgame speech, Bolen reminded his players to keep aiming for more.
"I'm happy for them -- they've done a great job," he said. "I just told them, 'Always expect something beyond your dreams and don't be satisfied.' This season has just been special."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...