RINGGOLD, Ga. — It was midnight, nearly four hours after a tornado had changed this community forever Wednesday, and Brent Tucker was standing in what used to be Bill Womack Field. The Ringgold High School baseball coach wasn’t really sure what he was looking at.
“There is no field, no light poles, dugouts or stands,” Tucker said Thursday, still trying to find the right way to describe the sight. “It’s unbelievable, the kind of thing that happens in other places. The only thing left standing is the press box and concession area.
“The football fieldhouse is gone. So is the wrestling building and ROTC building. The football scoreboard is ripped in half. I went to the field last night and again today. ... I wish I hadn’t gone either time.”
Tucker’s Tigers were to finish out their regular season Thursday and today, but those games have been canceled. The Georgia High School Association has notified Tucker and the rest of Region 7-AAA that Ringgold’s final two games won’t count against them, meaning they will finish with the region’s No. 2 seed behind Cartersville. That means a host role.
“We’ll be the second seed and I know we’ll play next Friday,” Tucker said. “I don’t know when or where, but there are so many pressing needs in this community and school right now that determining where we play isn’t all that important right now.
The great thing is all my players are OK. One lost his home, but he’s all right. I know one thing: We’ll get through this and we’ll be better for it.”
Heritage coach Eric Beagles has extended an offer to let Ringgold play its postseason games at his high school across town. The Heritage campus, five miles from Ringgold’s, escaped the storm’s wrath.
“We’ll work something out and let them play and practice at our place,” Beagles said. “If we make the playoffs, we’re going to be on the road anyway. It’s really an awful thing. I mean, they’re going to have to start over.”
Heritage will be allowed to play its final game at Gilmer County tonight at 7, with the winner earning the region’s final playoff spot.
The three Region 7-AA tournament series were postponed Thursday. Calhoun will, if the field can be prepared, host Adairsville today at 4 for one game and then travel to Adairsville for game two at 7. Game three would be played Saturday, if necessary.
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe will host Coosa at 5 p.m. today and play game two and, if necessary, game three Monday at Coosa. Dade County lost its fence in Wednesday’s storms and will begin its series against Model on Saturday at Shorter University in Rome.
The Ooltewah baseball field got hit hard by a storm for the second time this year.
“We’re in pretty bad shape,” coach Brian Hitchcox said Thursday. “Half of the home dugout is destroyed, and the other half is pretty much condemned. The backstop poles are halfway snapped, and the netting is pretty much ripped. We have no power because a light pole in the parking lot snapped and a loose wire was exposed, so the county had to cut the power.
“Our mound tarp was wrapped around the left-field foul pole. Our storage building is gone. About the top three rows of cinder block and the roof are gone. We lost a lot of equipment, but our mower and four-wheeler are OK. We lost three dozen game balls that were soaked.”
Still, Hitchcox noted, the damage to his facility didn’t come close to the devastation in Apison, one of the communities the school served.
Sequatchie County’s right-field fence was blown down, the roof was torn off a dugout, the locker room flooded and the hitting cages were blown onto the softball field, according to Indians coach Aaron Simmons. He added that the poles were intact but the outfield fencing was torn off them, and there was no electricity.
Lookout Valley’s field also lost power and probably won’t have any “for a while,” coach David Dinger reported, and a “good-sized” tree fell over the fence into left field. Another tree is lying on the bullpen on the other side. A lot of fencing was bent and there also was some damage to the windscreen and to the press box.
Red Bank, which lost its visiting dugout earlier in the season, just had some big debris on the field this time, coach Trey Hicks reported.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...