RINGGOLD, Ga.-At the end of a week full of distractions, the Ringgold High School baseball team was fully focused as it began play Friday in the GHSA Class AAA playoffs.
Playing at neighboring Catoosa County school Heritage after the Ringgold campus was severely damaged by last week's tornado, the Tigers swept Riverwood 13-3 and 10-1. Ringgold (23-2) will travel to Columbus for next week's second round, a rematch of last year's Class AAA championship series.
Ringgold, which hadn't played in two weeks, showed little rust in routing the Raiders (20-6), pounding out 26 hits. Senior Caleb Jones led the onslaught with five hits, including two first-game homers, and seven RBIs. First baseman Adam Weldon was 6-for-8 in the two games, with three doubles and five runs scored.
"That dugout before the first pitch was as intense as you could have," Ringgold coach Brent Tucker said. "There was no one doubting themselves, and they were very confident. They were ready - you could see it in their eyes. They've been ready to play for a while."
Though no explanation was given to the dozen or so media members in attendance, per Catoosa County Schools superintendent Denia Reese, Ringgold players were not allowed to speak to the media following the games.
The Tigers got a much-needed quick start in the first game. Following a 1-2-3 top of the first for Ringgold pitcher Matthew Crownover, the Tigers loaded the bases with a hit and two walks before Jones launched a towering grand slam to right-center. They added another run in the inning as Weldon doubled and Corey Kafka singled him home with two out.
"Wow, I mean you couldn't script it any better," Tucker said. "We got a hit and a couple of walks, and then Caleb hit one that might have landed on the soccer field. That took a lot of pressure and tension off."
Ringgold added three runs in the second on Jones' RBI double, an error and Weldon's RBI triple. The runs made things easy for Crownover, who nearly had a five-inning no-hitter. Up 10-0 with two out and a runner on first after a walk, the Tigers committed two consecutive errors before Kyle Carruthers smacked a two-run double. Ringgold ended the game early in the sixth with three runs, including Jones' solo homer.
Riverwood led 1-0 in game two before the Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run third inning. Among the six hits was a two-run triple by Walden, Allen Mocahbee's RBI double and Kafka's RBI single. Ringgold added three scores in the fourth, again batting around. Crownover hit a solo homer and Walden and Mocahbee added RBI hits in the inning.
Colton Cross allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in six innings to earn the win.