A year ago, Ringgold pitcher Davis Brown thought his coach, Brent Tucker, was a little wacked out.
Tucker changed Brown’s delivery by about point by about 6 to 8 inches downward to almost a submarine motion.
“In the beginning I thought he was crazy,” Brown said.
Tucker’s handling of Brown looked pretty much like the move of a genius Friday night against Soddy-Daisy.
Brown, who had a seven-run lead before he even took the mound, checked the Trojans on two hits – singles by Austin Hickey – and the Tigers routed Soddy-Daisy, 14-1, on a cold, blustery night at Tom Higgins Field in a game called after five innings by the 10-run mercy rule.
A right-hander with above average velocity, doesn’t drag his knuckles on the mound like true sub-mariners as he delivers wickedly moving pitches, but he’s always just beyond being a clear-cut side-arm pitcher.
“One day (Tucker) came up to me and said, ‘You’re down here (almost side-arm), so see if you can take it a little further and see if the ball starts moving more. I did that and I’ve been more effective ever since.”
In 2013, the Tigers – perennial regional title contenders in North Georgia, were young after eight players graduated from the 2012 squad and went on to play college baseball – were young and Tucker was making changes to prepare Ringgold for the season.
Tinkering with Brown’s delivery was just one of several successes for the Tigers.
“We were young, went 20-11, finished second in our region and went to the second round of the state playoffs,” Tucker said. “I think we had a pretty good year.”
Brown primarily was used as a reliever during his junior season. This year Brown has started two games and won both, but Tucker hasn’t made up his mound about whether his side-armer will start more or be used frequently out of the bullpen.
That decision process will certainly have to include Friday’s four-inning performance.
“While Davis has done a nice job for us so far, he’s really nice to bring in with people on base,” Tucker said. “He throws strikes and gets people off balance. He was kind of a one-in-a-million over the top guy, but we dropped him down and he found something.”
That “something” was ball movement.
“It’s amazing how much difference a slight drop in my release counts,” Brown said. “I have thrown about three-quarters since I was very little, but the change has been great. I went from about 4 inches (of movement) on a cut-fastball to maybe 6 inches and that throws the batter off that much more.”
Hickey had singles in the first and third innings for the only hits off Brown.
On Hickey’s second hit, Dev DeMatteo, who reached when hit by a pitch, moved to second on a wild pitch, raced to third and scored an unearned run on an outfield throwing error.
Brown allowed only two other base runners – Grant Cordell was hit by a pitch and Cale Morgan followed with a base on balls in the second inning.
“He (Brown) did a great job,” said Soddy-Daisy coach Jared Hensley, whose Trojans (2-1) were coming off a two-game sweep of District 5-AAA rival Walker Valley. “He’s a submarine-type guy and you don’t see that every day. He kept the ball down and had good movement. I thought we hit him some but they were right at people and they also made some great plays.”
Kevin Ingle came on in relief of Brown to pitch the fifth inning and retired the Trojans in order to end the game.
The Tigers committed just the one error and center-fielder Logan Baldwin, had four putouts two each in the second and fifth innings – and three were superlative plays.
Baldwin is a Georgia Southern University signee and went 2-for-3, scored twice and drove in a run in the first inning with a double to right-center field.
“Georgia Southern wanted him as a pitcher, but after they saw him in center field that idea might be on hold,” Tucker said.
Tigers shortstop Slade Dale, who was also one of North Georgia’s top quarterbacks, signed to play baseball at the University of Georgia. Dale was 1-for-2, walked twice and scored three runs as the Tigers improved to 5-5 on the season.
In Ringgold’s first nine games, it faced three Class 6A schools, the largest classification in the Peach State.
The Tigers roughed up Trojans starter Andy Wright for seven runs on four hits and two errors – one by Wright – in the first inning.
Zach Morris had a two-run double and Ethan Dalton singled scored Morris. Ringgold also got runs on Wright’s throwing error, fielder’s choice, shortstop a Christian Amos’ throwing error and Baldwin’s double.
Ringgold sent 11 batters to the plate and Wright needed 38 pitches to get out of the early uprising.
The Tigers added three runs in the second inning on Brandon Dycus’ single, a triple by Chandler Gray and Dalton’s sacrifice fly.
The final three runs came in the fifth against Gavin Rogers, the Trojans’ third pitcher of the night. Two errors accounted for all three runs.
“Coach Tucker is one of the best around and he’s always putting a good squad on the field,” Hensley said. “I knew we would have our hands full and they pretty much put it on us in the first inning and that was the game in a nutshell.
“I told Andy when I went out to get him in the second it was a little unusual for him. We’ll flush it, forget about it and move on. He’s going to win a lot of games for us this year and we’re expecting big things from him. One bad night will not define him. One bad night is not going to define our season.”
The Trojans, who finished second in the district tournament last year after being seeded seventh to earn a spot in the Region 3-AAA tourney where they lost to Cookeville in the semifinals, open a two-game series against defending district champion Ooltewah on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Ringgold 740 03 – 14 8 1
Soddy-Daisy 001 00 – 1 2 4
Brown, Ingle (5) and Dalton, Lancaster (5); Wright, Perez (2), Rogers (5) and Cordell, Clift (2).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)