RINGGOLD, Ga. -- Sometimes the old standard just doesn't fit. Try as he might, Ringgold High School baseball coach Brent Tucker couldn't bring himself to call tonight's Region 7-AAA first-place showdown at Cartersville just another game.
After all, barring an upset in the final week of games, tonight's winner will win the region championship and the very real possibility of hosting throughout the state playoffs.
"To be honest, we don't even need all that on the line to make this game special," Tucker said. "The first time we played this year (a dramatic 7-4 Ringgold win), it wasn't just another game, and it certainly won't be this time. The fact there is so much on the line just adds to it. If you win this game you get home field for at least the first three rounds; if you lose you only get one round."
The region champion also can avoid facing top-ranked (and nationally ranked) Columbus until the finals, which the Region 7 champ would host. The No. 2 seed likely will have to travel to Columbus in the quarterfinals.
Winning at Cartersville (17-3, 14-2) is easier dreamed than done, however. In fact, Ringgold (17-4, 14-2) never has won a game there, and the Purple Hurricanes have lost only three home games in three seasons. Cartersville under coach Stuart Chester has won five state championships since 2001 and is riding a streak of seven consecutive region titles.
Beating the 'Canes at their cozy stadium involves more than defeating a baseball team, according to another Catoosa County coach.
"It's very loud and their fans have a lot of passion for the team," said Heritage coach Eric Beagles, whose team lost 4-1 there Monday. "They play with such confidence at home and they put such pressure on you, making your margin for error very small. And they seem to hit much better at home. Every game we've played there, they've hit at least one home run."
Tucker hopes his players relish the opportunity.
"Games like these are why you play athletics," he said. "You have to enjoy the moment and hope you're mentally tough enough to come out on top."
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 ...