By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The 2017 Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels won’t have a Senior Night this season.
When you have a roster without any 12th graders, there is a period of time you are learning on the job. TRA Head Baseball Coach Brad Smith knew the month of March would have some elements of trial and error. A prime example was the March 23 contest against the ECS Eagles.
In a classic pitchers’ duel the Rebels were deadlock at 1-1 heading into the 10th inning before the bottom fell out losing 7-1. Learning from situations like that, TRA hit the field March 28 for their league opener against the Fayette Academy Vikings.
The Rebels swept the doubleheader 15-5 and 9-0 to start off 2-0 in league play.
“We learned we can play,” Smith recalled after the Eagles game. “ECS is a very good program traditionally. They’ve got a very good team this year. With the kids they have the experience they have, I saw it coming. We pitched well and did a lot of good things.
“We competed and the effort we showed that night I’ll take that any day of the week,” he added. “We came up on the short end of the stick. Gave up a six-spot in the top if the 10th. But I was pleased with our effort. I’m starting to see some guys go from having the deer-in-the-headlights look to a little bit more of a look of confidence.”
In the first Fayette Academy contest the developing Rebels used the starting pitching of Corey Mitson to seize control early. Mitson pitched into the seventh inning against ECS.
Monday night he went three innings against the Vikings giving up one hit and striking out three. Logan Jones and Jacob Dodson got in some work in the final two innings of the contest.
Offensively the Rebels were led by Alex Langford going 2 for 3 with a three RBIs. Mitson went 2 of 4 with a pair of RBIs. Shae Nolen added three RBIs in the 15-5 victory.
The second contest on Rebel Field went the full seven innings with Tyler Flynn going five innings from the mound with 6 Ks, giving up one hit.
Peyton Ryan and Jaxon Pennington got in some pitching work to close out the 9-0 victory. Mitson contributed in Game Two with a pair of hits and an RBI. The junior scored three runs in the game.
Will Turner scored twice and Flynn had 3 RBIs in the second game.
“The first couple of weeks we’ve played some very good baseball programs,” Smith said. “We saw some very good pitching. We ended up 4-5 in those two weeks. We didn’t know what to expect coming out of the gate. But we competed well in 7 of those 9 ballgames. We didn’t do anything correctly in two of them.
“We learned from it,” he added. “We started playing good baseball last Friday and Saturday. And we did some good things today. We were able to use 6 pitchers today to get them some work in.”
The Rebels improved to 6-5 on the season and started off league play 2-0 before heading out of town for a tournament.
“Anybody can come out and watch us play to see how young we are,” Smith said. “Mistakes you hate to see them happen. But if you can make them and then coach the kids up, hopefully not to make those same mistakes again. Sometimes those mistakes are not bad situations to have this early in the season.”
The Final Flight Tournament gave the Rebels another chance to learn through trial and error before entering April and the heart of league play.
“I’m not looking past this year for the future,” Smith said. “But it does look bright. I’ve never not had a senior but when you know every inning pitched is going to be returning, every plate appearance you have is returning, every defensive player getting balls hit to them is returning, that’s a good situation to be in.
“But I do like us and I think in May we’re going to be a better quality team than we are right now,” he concluded. “I look forward to getting there with this group. It’s just going to take some time.”