RINGGOLD, Ga. - Baseball players hear every spring how important each job on the team is, whether it's the ace pitcher or the courtesy runner. Ringgold coach Brent Tucker gives that speech every year, and following Friday's 3-2 win over Catoosa County rival Heritage, he has another example to reference.
While the usually potent top of the Tigers' order went 1-for-12 against Heritage ace Jake Sampson, batters five, six and seven went a combined 4-for-8 with two home runs and all three RBIs and runs scored.
Just as important, Tucker pointed out, were two plays made by non-hitters.
The Generals had Ringgold starter Colton Cross on the ropes in the third inning after consecutive singles by Cody Sherlin, Jared McDade and Sampson gave them a 1-0 lead. Hunter White followed with a deep sacrifice fly to right field, and though the out allowed McDade to score from third, Ringgold right fielder Austin Parrish threw out pinch-runner Austin Morris trying to advance to second base.
Parrish was the fielder who gave way in the Tigers' batting order to the designated hitter.
On the game's final out, McDade hit a scorching line drive to right field, where the just-inserted Wright Hackett made a running catch.
"It was just a good team effort," Tucker said after a long sigh of relief. "Our role players really mean a lot. Austin Parrish threw the kid out at second earlier in the game, and the play Wright Hackett made to end the game was also huge. If he doesn't catch it, it's a triple. We do preach that all the time, just how important every role is. Tonight they got to see it."
Tucker also had high praise for Sampson, who held the Ringgold offense - averaging 11 runs coming in - to five hits. Unfortunately for the big right-hander, two of them left the park. Reed Walden's two-run shot to center tied the game in the fourth inning, and first-year starter Allen Mocahbee homered leading off the seventh for what turned out to be the winning run
"Sampson did a great job," Tucker said. "He threw on the black all game and only missed his spot a couple of times. He kept us off balance, throwing changeups behind in the count. On the other side, Colton did a great job of getting out of trouble a few times."
Cross (5-0) had runners on in every inning, stranding four in scoring position. His biggest escape came in the bottom of the sixth with the score still tied. The Generals' Jordan Lyles led off with a double, and with one out he moved to third after nearly being picked off at second.
Cross regrouped to strike out Colby Chattin and ended the threat by getting Brad McDonald to fly out to left.
Mocahbee then made a winner of Cross with his team-leading seventh homer of the season.
"I was just looking for the first good fastball I saw," the junior said. "The previous pitch I just tipped it, but he put the next one over the plate a little more and I got most of it. One through nine, we all have the ability to hit it, no matter who's pitching. We don't have to put everything on the top of the lineup."
Junior Corey Kafka, who dislocated his nonthrowing shoulder just over a week ago, pitched a perfect seventh for the save.