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franklin county times

Tharptown goes 1-1 at Sheffield

J.R. Tidwell/FCT Colton Blankenship (23) of the Tharptown Wildcats throws a pitch against Florence Wednesday morning at Sheffield.

SHEFFIELD — The Tharptown Wildcats baseball team has filled some of its summer hours outside of the regular season doing what it does best; playing baseball.

The Wildcats competed in a series of games in a wooden bat tournament hosted by the Sheffield Bulldogs this week.

Tharptown went 1-1 on Wednesday, defeating the Florence Falcons 14-1 but losing to host Sheffield 6-1. The games were held to five innings each.

Florence’s team was comprised of junior varsity and B-team players, while 3A Sheffield fielded its starting varsity squad.

“I’m glad [Sheffield] played its varsity,” Tharptown head coach Derek Ergle said. “Playing good teams like that helps us out.”

The Wildcats wasted no time in controlling game one against the Falcons, scoring five runs in the top of the first inning.

Tharptown had another big inning in the bottom of the second. Two singles and a walk set up a three-RBI triple by Tristan Smith. Smith then stole home plate on a wild pitch.

Florence followed this by walking four batters straight, bringing in another Wildcat run.

An RBI single by John Staggs and Colton Blankenship stealing home plate on a wild pitch rounded out the seven-run inning for Tharptown.

The lone run of the game for Florence came in the bottom of the third inning. The last two runs of the contest for the Wildcats came on a two-RBI single to the third base gap by Kelby Hallmark in the top of the fourth.

“I thought that was a really good game for us,” Ergle said. “We have been hitting the ball well, and we jumped on them quick.

“Colton did a good job pitching for us. He threw strikes, and we played good defense.”

This game was more practice for a new strategy the Wildcats are implementing this season.

“We’re working on small ball,” Ergle said. “We’re taking bases when we can get them, and we’re trying to be more aggressive.”

Tharptown did not have the same measure of success in game one, though the Wildcats were playing a much more difficult opponent in the Sheffield Bulldogs.

The early innings of the second game saw Tharptown locked in a pitcher’s duel. It wasn’t until the fourth inning that either team made it onto the scoreboard.

Sheffield scored the first run of the game on a suicide squeeze, with the runner beating the throw to home plate. Another run for the Bulldogs came in on a wild pitch.

The Wildcats scored their lone run of the contest on an RBI single to right field by Allen Gaston. Tharptown was unable to answer Sheffield’s first two runs, and the Bulldogs added four more for insurance in the top of the fifth.

“Pitching is huge,” Ergle said. “We did fine until I had to put in some new pitchers. Regardless of the score I thought we played well, but our pitching needs to be up to par.”

Coach Ergle, coming off of the success of last season’s playoff berth, has high hopes for next year.

“We only lost two starters, so we have high expectations for next season,” he said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs again.”