By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Recently Brighton Head Coach Michael Wickersham kind of celebrated a personal milestone with his team in Middle Tennessee.
The man known as Coach Wick picked up his 100th career coaching victory adding another special moment in his first season with the Brighton Cardinals.
“Reached the 100th win in Murfreesboro beating Oakland,” he recalled. “It was 37 degrees and spitting snow. They wanted to dump Gatorade. But I said, ‘No, let’s just shake hands and get out of this cold back to the hotel.
“It’s nice and I’m glad it’s over,” Wickersham added. “We got 100 out of the way. I think that this was No. 103 here.”
Win No. 103 was in serious jeopardy April 6 at Brighton Baseball Field. District 13-3A and Tipton County rival the Munford Cougars jumped out to a 5-0 lead early in the game. But the Cardinals chipped away at the Munford advantage finally taking the lead 7-6 in the fifth inning. Brighton prevailed 9-8 to take an early lead in the district standings.
“They didn’t panic,” Wickersham said of his team. “That’s been our big thing. Before in the past they would panic when they would get behind. We talked about that early in the season about what got us up and what got us down early in games.
“I was still trying to fill them out,” he continued. “One of the things they said, ‘Coach, when we got down, it seemed like we could never get back up.’”
The Cardinals overcoming the demons of past avalanches would be tested against Munford when the Cougars scored 5 runs in the second inning. A bases loaded walk, hit-by-pitch and another walk with the bags full lead to a 3-0 Munford lead.
Then Cougar senior infielder Kyle Hindman stroked a single off the left field wall driving in a pair of runs. Brighton reliever Robert Meyer stopped the Munford onslaught with a strikeout and double-play.
Behind 5-0, Wickersham tried to keep his players calm with a new rally cry.
“I just kept saying, ‘Don’t panic, we can’t panic,’” he said. “‘We breathe different oxygen than we breathe last year.’ This is a district game and lets inch back one at a time.
“As long as they can see that it’s manageable and we’re going in the right direction doing things in that direction, they’re OK,” Wickersham added. “That’s because we’re not process-oriented instead of result-oriented. That makes a big different in them not panicking.”
The first part of the “don’t panic” plan was sending Ladarius Williams to the mound.
“He was real big,” Wickersham noted. “He was supposed to be our starter tomorrow. We weren’t throwing any strikes, so we had to just go with him. He’s just a bulldog. He goes to the plate and does what he has to do. He goes to the bump and does what he has to do.”
Williams was starting to throw strikes and recording outs. Phase two of the plan was to chip away at the deficit. In the bottom of the third inning, Cardinal TJ Klutts smacked a double to drive in teammate Chase Kidd.
Munford regained a five-run advantage in the fourth inning when Hindman came through again beating out a single at first base allowing a run to score.
Behind 6-1, the Cardinals set a goal to at least cut the deficit in half. Williams and teammate Kolton Childress drove in a run each to make the score 6-3 heading into the fifth inning.
Then Brighton executed the next-to-last phase of the “don’t panic” plan with four runs in the fifth inning to take the lead 7-6. Dustin Rogers doubled to drive in Klutts. Williams singled in the next RBI to make the score 6-5 in favor of the Cougars. Childress struck another big blow with a single driving in two runs giving Brighton the lead for the moment.
Corey Simmons tied the game for Munford in the sixth inning with a single. The Cardinals regained the advantage in their half of the sixth with RBIs from Eli Davis and Rogers.
Rogers’ sacrifice fly RBI that made the score 9-7 came in handy for Brighton closer Childress. Munford got a run in the seventh inning on a pass-ball. But Childress didn’t panic, collect himself to record the final out on a strike out looking. The Cougars bounced back the following night at home to win 4-0 over Brighton. Munford continued its hot stretch with a 7-6 win over Crockett County and 14-2 victory over Fayette Academy.