RINGGOLD, Ga. -- The christening of the "new" Bill Womack Field Friday night was nearly perfect for the Ringgold Tigers. They let out almost a year's worth of emotional buildup in a 10-run first inning and cruised to a 12-1 win over Gilmer County in their Region 7-AAA opener.
The rebuilt stadium, wrecked by last April's tornado, was still being worked on late Friday afternoon. For coach Brent Tucker, who helped oversee the construction, the game was a sight for sore eyes.
"The guys were anxious to get on this field and play some baseball," he said. "They came out and hit the ball well and had a great first inning. We enjoyed being back home. I'm personally worn out. I've never been this tired this early in the season, but there are no excuses. The place is great, and it's been a lot of hard work for a lot of people. In fact, they got the scoreboard up 10 minutes before everybody started showing up."
Ringgold (4-2, 1-0) sent 15 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, collecting six hits, three walks and two hit-by-pitches. Reed Walden had two hits and three RBIs in the inning, while Wright Hackett and Logan Baldwin each drove in two runs. Leadoff man Slade Dale and No. 2 hitter Corey Kafka each scored twice and drove in a run.
Senior Adam Weldon was the beneficiary of all the runs. The 6-foot-5 right-hander earned the win with three innings of shutout ball. He allowed two hits and struck out five in the first of what will likely be many starts this season.
Weldon was slated to be the team's closer until senior ace Matthew Crownover was lost for the season after undergoing successful Tommy John surgery earlier Friday.
"It was real emotional for us today," Weldon said. "We're all glad to be back on our home field, and to come out and get 10 runs, as a pitcher that's as good as it gets. I'm going to have to step up to the challenge. I was going to pitch more this year anyway, but with Matthew out I'm going to have to pitch more as a starter.
"We hate losing Matthew, but we can use it as extra motivation this year. We want to win for him and for the school and county."