By Diane Glidewell
On April 16, the Henderson Middle School Tigers baseball team faced the Gray Station Greyhounds of Jones County for the last regular season game for 2010. The Tigers had an 8-5 record in the Central Georgia Middle School Athletic League (CGMSAL), and the Greyhounds boasted 11 wins and only two losses for the season and had a firm lock on first place ranking. Gray Station had been the victor, 11-6, when the two teams met previously on March 23.
The Tigers were coming off of a disappointing 7th inning loss, 10-8, to Clifton Ridge at home two days earlier when they welcomed the Greyhounds to Jackson to finish off season play. Questionable calls by the umpires in the top of the 7th inning had tipped the score away from Henderson and in favor of Clifton Ridge, but the Tigers put that frustration behind them and came to the field ready to play against the Greyhounds.
By the 2nd inning the Tigers had taken an early lead, 2-0, and worked their defense to hold onto it all the way to the top of the 7th inning. In the top of the 7th inning, the Greyhounds scored twice to tie the game.
In the bottom of the 7th inning, after one Tiger was on with a base hit, Grey Station intentionally walked the next batter and then walked another Tiger to load the bases.
Rhett Carroll came to the plate and hit a shot down the left field line to score the winning run and claim the game for Henderson, 3-2.
The Tigers then had a break until the first playoff game on Tuesday, April 27 against Byron Middle School of Peach County. With Byron the #2 seed in the playoff tournament and Henderson the #3 seed, home field advantage went to Byron.
Winds blowing about 50 mph made visibility and control of the ball difficult at time with Byron's dirt infield. The Tigers scored one run in the 1st inning and two more runs in the 2nd inning. The 3rd inning belonged to Byron as the Peach County team managed to score three runs with one hit and tie the game, 3-3.
The tie held until the 7th inning. A hit and a walk put the first two runners on with no outs, but a put-out at first, followed by a fly ball gave the Tigers two outs before Catcher Levie Heath got a big enough piece of the ball to get to first base and allow DeEric Bell to score from third base.
The Tiger defense held through the bottom of the 7th inning, and Henderson won the first playoff game, 4-3. Tyler Walker pitched the first five innings of the game, and Dylan Williams came in as the closer for the last two innings.
"It was a great game," said Head Coach Jason LaChappelle. "The guys all played well."
The Championship Game
The Tigers had clawed their way into the CGMSAL championship game on Friday, April 30. Their opponent would be the Gray Station team, which had dominated the league during most of the season, and Gray Station would have the home field advantage.
It looked like it would be a tough season finale for the HMS Tigers, but after five innings the Tigers had claimed the big trophy and were making plans to bring it home to Jackson. The score was 15-5, and the game was awarded to Henderson on the run rule at the end of five innings of play.
"We only had about 20 minutes to warm up, but we came ready to play," said Coach LaChappelle. "We were going to play our hardest and win."
And that is what the Tigers did. DeEric Bell hit a triple in the first inning to score leadoff batter Rhett Carroll, and Tyler Walker hit a single to score Bell and put two runs on the board for HMS in the 1st inning. Gray Station came back to score three runs in the bottom of the 1st inning and go ahead, 3-2.
Undaunted, the Tigers added four runs in the 2nd inning and, with Walker pitching, held the Greyhounds scoreless until the bottom of the 4th inning when they scored two to narrow the Henderson lead a bit to 8-5.
The Tigers' bats caught fire in the 5th inning. There were doubles from David Wiley, Bell, and Austin Smith and base hits from Jared Smith and Walker. Walks and errors put Carroll, Levie Heath, and Austin Flores on base to yield a total of seven runs in the 5th inning. When the bottom of 5th inning ended scoreless for the Greyhounds, the Tigers had a 10-run lead, ending the game on the run rule.
"I saw a lot of maturity in my players over the season; they learned how to put the mistakes behind them and focus on what they needed to do next," said Coach LaChappelle. "We only had one error in the whole [championship] game. That's good baseball. Our guys made it look easy."
The assistant coach for the Tigers baseball team is Kyle Kersey. The players are De Eric Bell, Rhett Carroll, Austin Flores, Brandon Hardy, Levie Heath, Will Lane, A.J. Madonna, Kevin Madonna, Rob Reeves, Austin Smith, Jared Smith, Jordon Spruill, Tyler Walker, David Wiley, and Dylan Williams.