Evidently all Soddy-Daisy's baseball team needed was some positive reinforcement, and rookie coach Jared Hensley was wise enough to realize it.
Irked after his team blew a 6-1 Thursday lead and lost to Murfreesboro Riverdale, Hensley soft-pedaled the loss and accented the positives before the Trojans' Friday game at McCallie against Pope John Paul II. They responded with an 8-3 victory over the Knights in McCallie's Scenic City Classic.
"I really wanted to go off, but I told the guys I was taking the Tony Dungy approach. I tried to be positive, and it evidently worked," Hensley said.
It worked only after the first innings when three Trojans errors led to three Pope John Paul runs.
"Those first two innings are about how we played the last four against Riverdale," Hensley said. "We looked more like ourselves after that."
PJP took the lead early lead but Soddy-Daisy quickly erased it in the bottom of the first on a run-scoring single from Justin Baier and Zach Stephens' two-run homer.
Baier has been battling bronchitis, but Stephens probably would have swapped his slump for his teammate's infection.
"Zach has been trying to bust out of a slump, and hopefully that shot today did it," Hensley said.
It was just the start for Soddy-Daisy, which broke the game open in the third inning when Michael Howard, batting in the eighth slot, got a ball up into a stiff wind and clubbed a grand-slam homer to right-center field. The slam propelled the Trojans from a 4-3 lead to a five-run advantage.
"Michael is one of those kids who comes to work every day, and he stepped up when we needed it," Hensley said.
Four runs would have been enough, but the extras gave starting pitcher Dakota Price some breathing room.
"Dakota has been a leader all year," Hensley said. "He definitely will be one of our top three starting pitchers."
Victimized by errors in the first and second innings, Price scattered five hits over six innings - allowing no earned runs - to pick up his first win. Depending heavily on a variety of curveballs, the senior struck out four and walked three. He pitched out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth, getting a pop-up to second and a weak comebacker.
"I made a trip to the mound, but I just reminded him that he was a leader and that he needed to be a competitor for us," Hensley said.
The Trojans' win spoiled a homecoming of sorts for PJP II coach Michael Brown, who coached previously at Ridgeland and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.
"It has been fun to come back, even with a young team," Brown said after his team fell to 3-3. "We have only two seniors, so I think you could say we're a young team trying to grow up. We're getting there. We have to get some confidence."
Knights catcher Sam James had two doubles, while Soddy-Daisy's Blake Stewart went 3-for-4 with two doubles.