ECRU – The Ripley Tiger and Pine Grove Panther baseball teams made the trip to Ecru to participate in the NEMCABB Summer Regionals, and both teams made the trip worthwhile, with Ripley going 3-0 and Pine Grove going 2-1, their only loss against Ripley on day one of the regionals.
“These were the first games for us for the summer since everything got rained out last week, and I was pleasantly surprised,” Ripley head coach Joel Gafford said after the Tigers’ three game stretch. “I was anticipating it being a whole lot worse. Pitchers did a really good job throwing strikes, especially yesterday with Ty and Reed, and we used three guys tonight to get some more guys some work, and we hit the ball a lot better than I was anticipating, so I can’t complain.”
The Tigers went 3-0 in their three contests, defeating Pine Grove and New Albany on the first day before getting the better of North Pontotoc on the final contest of the event. Despite losing several talented seniors to graduation after last season’s deep playoff run, the Tigers look to continue to be a threat in Class 4A, returning several standouts such as Conner Graves, Ty Long, Reed Scott, and several newer faces that stood out in the summer regionals.
“Curt (Cohea) and Cooper (Davis) both had home-runs tonight, we were able to use Jack Reid and Jack Fortune, and both did a good job.” Coach Gafford said. “Will Caviness did a good job at first for us. We got a new kid, Tanner Allen, that had two really good days for us. Lot better than I anticipated but we still have next week’s single elimination, and it’s lose and you go home, so we gotta show back up and play next week.”
The Tigers will participate in a single elimination tournament next week, and will be joined by a Pine Grove squad that is in a similar position of evaluating new faces and lineups after a season that saw Pine Grove make an appearance in the 1A North Half Finals. After a day one loss to Ripley, the Panthers took two straight games against New Albany and North Pontotoc to finish at 2-1.
“I was proud of them today,” Panthers head coach Matt King said after day two. “They bounced back today, and a lot of that had to do with having a full group. It’s the summer, wins and losses aren’t what’s important, but it’s really a waste of time if you don’t come out here and compete. I really wanted to challenge them to compete, and I thought they competed really well today.”
Returning for the Panthers next season will be standouts such as Carson Rowland, Jacob Hopkins, and Brice Lindley, as well as several younger players looking to break out.
“There’s gonna be guys that’ll get chances to do stuff that haven’t in the past, we’ve had a lot of guys step up,” Coach King said.
Of particular note was Lane Mauney, who stood in at the catcher position for a majority of the Panthers’ innings and earned praise from Coach King.
“He’s gonna be one of those guys that’ll end up having to step up and take somebody’s role that has graduated on,” Coach King said. “I’m proud of all those younger guys, and it speaks to the legacy of the group that just left and how they were always fighters to the end, and you get in the game today against North Pontotoc, you’re down to your last three outs, and you come back to fight your way out of it with guys that aren’t your normal players.”