CALHOUN, Ga. - If there's one thing Brent Tucker knows about his baseball team, it's that no game will be too big.
Call it experience or reputation or a combination of the two, but Tucker's Ringgold Tigers have been there and done that, so when they strolled onto the diamond at Sonoraville on Friday with a share of first place on the line in Region 5-AAA, there were no nerves.
At least for the visitors, that is. Ringgold (17-6, 9-1) took advantage of seven Sonoraville errors to win the showdown with ease, 16-4, setting up a possible winner-take-all game with Cartersville on Tuesday at Ringgold. The Tigers rapped out a season's-best 18 hits, including two home runs from designated hitter Chase Burke and Brandon Dycus' first career homer.
"We've been showing signs the past three games with the bats, and the lineup is getting more in sync," said Tucker, who had six players with at least two hits. "We got some breaks early and ran the bases aggressively to maybe cause some of those breaks.
"We've played in a lot of big games over the years, so we understand big games, and that has to help give us confidence in these type games, and it showed today."
The Phoenix (10-8, 8-2) fell apart defensively in the second inning, committing five errors as Ringgold scored four times on just two hits. The Ringgold bats came alive in the third when Burke hit the first of his homers, a three-run shot that barely cleared the left-field fence. The margin grew to 10-0 in the fourth on RBI singles by Logan Baldwin and Dycus and Burke's bases-loaded walk.
Sonoraville avoided the run-rule ending with two runs in the bottom half, but it delayed the inevitable as the Tigers batted around in the seventh, scoring six more runs -- two on Burke's second homer, a towering shot to center.
"I've been struggling this year, but today I saw the ball real well and it felt good to get my swing back and get in the groove of things and contribute," Burke said. "The first home run, honestly, I didn't think it was going to clear the fence, but once I saw it did it put me in a good mood."
Tucker joined in that good mood afterward, safe in the knowledge that unless the wheels fall off, his team should get at least one home series in the state playoffs.
"Today was the first step in getting to the state playoffs," the veteran coach said. "Then you start thinking about home-field advantage, and then you start thinking about how long you can stay at home. We've got a big one against Cartersville Tuesday, and those games are always fun."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.