RINGGOLD, Ga. — Facing elimination in the first round of the GHSA Class AAA baseball playoffs, Ringgold leaned heavily on its stars Saturday, and they didn't disappoint. Seniors Logan Baldwin and Slade Dale combined for six hits and five RBIs and junior Zach Morris did the heavy lifting on the mound as the Tigers escaped with a 7-6 win over West Hall.
"What a series," Ringgold coach Brent Tucker said. "West Hall just kept coming and kept coming, and tip your hat to our guys, too, for not backing off. It was definitely one of the best series I've ever been a part of. I don't care how much experience you have, when it gets down to this it's tense, and I'm glad to have those guys on our side."
Ringgold (21-9) will travel to Hart County for a best-of-three second-round series beginning with a Wednesday doubleheader.
Baldwin, a day after pitching a two-hitter in game one, went 4-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. He stole three bases, two of which led to runs, from the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Three-hole hitter Dale drove him in twice, including with a single in the sixth inning for what proved to be the winning run.
"Baldwin was at his best today," Tucker said of the Georgia Southern signee. "He got a couple of runs by stealing and tagging. He pitched a great game yesterday and led us today at the plate. Slade's last at-bat was one of the best he's had at Ringgold. He's had a lot of at-bats, but that was a great one."
The Spartans (19-9), who used five pitchers, nearly knocked Morris out of the game with three runs in the fourth inning to tie the game at five. Three consecutive singles with one out, including Mike Cronic's RBI single, scored one. After Zach Collins scored on a successful double steal, Cameron Johnson singled in the tying run.
Morris, however, struck out Brian Newman to leave the bases loaded.
The Tigers broke the tie on the fifth on Chase Burke's solo home run, then added insurance in the sixth when, after Baldwin doubled and stole third with one out, Dale laced a two-strike single to right. That run proved crucial as West Hall used a two-base error, a wild pitch and a groundout to get within one, but Ringgold second baseman Hayden Moss made a diving catch of Will Simmons' pop-up and Morris ended the game with a strikeout of Newman.
"Guts and courage right there," Tucker said of the pitcher. "He had a rough inning and battled through a couple more, but he was at his best in the final innings."
The big right-hander, who is committed to Duke as a football player, struck out six in his first complete game of the season.
"I just had to keep my confidence up, and I kept telling myself that I could do this," he said. "I'm just glad to be moving on. We all wanted to keep playing, so everybody knew they had to step up today. We have to keep our confidence up, and even though we're on the road [this week], we have to keep our confidence up and make it our house."
Baldwin echoed Morris's thoughts and said the program's proud past played a part in the team's gutty effort.
"None of our guys wanted to lose today," he said. "We put our all into it today and made it happen. If we play like we can, we can beat anybody in the state. The tradition we have here and the want to get it done are big factors for this team."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.
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 ...