GHSA Baseball Playoffs
First round Friday (best of three)
Riverwood (20-4) vs. Ringgold (21-2) at Heritage, 3 (DH)
Heritage (17-8) at Woodward Academy (22-3), 2 (DH)
Temple (14-11) at Calhoun (19-5), 4:30 (DH)
Dade County (20-7) at Heard County (16-10), 3 (DH)
There is a common theme for the Ringgold and Dade County baseball teams as they begin play in the GHSA playoffs Friday, and it runs much deeper than wins and losses and potential state championships.
Both areas were heavily damaged by last week's tornado outbreak, something that remains in the players' minds as they prepare for postseason play.
"It was good to get away from all of it for a day," Dade County senior pitcher and outfielder Travis Core said of the Wolverines' two-games-to-one Region 7-AA tournament triumph over Model last Saturday at Shorter University. "We just wanted to go out and win for our city. We lost the first game but came back to win the last two. It was a tough day, but we definitely bonded together even more than we already were."
The same can be said of Ringgold, even though the Tigers haven't played since their field was destroyed. Intense practices have shown an already-tight group of veteran players becoming even closer.
"We practiced about two and a half hours today and the kids were like, 'Let's keep going,'" Ringgold coach Brent Tucker said Tuesday following practice at Heritage. "They're just happy to be on the baseball field again. I honestly was worried how they would focus on the field until I saw them. Coaches use the word 'family' a lot, and when this bunch hits the field, they are as close as brothers.
"They also know what this team means to the community, and if we can go on a little run, if we can give them something positive to read about, that would be nice."
One Ringgold player, a freshman, lost his house, and Core said several Dade players are living together right now until repairs can be made on homes. He saw firsthand the power of the tornado that hit about a mile from the high school.
"My old neighborhood is nearly destroyed, but we're fine," Core said. "I went outside to get our dog and saw the wind start to swirl, so I went back in for cover. We've had a lot of guys affected, but we're all working together to clean up the area, and all of it has brought us closer.
"It was bad, but we all know it could have been much worse."