No. 5 Charles Henderson hosts Tallassee in first round

Published 9:19 am Friday, April 20, 2012

Michael Fox had this date circled the moment Charles Henderson’s baseball schedule was released.

After Russell County swept the Trojans from the playoffs last season, Fox and his teammates didn’t like the bitter taste left in their mouths and were anxious to get back to the postseason in 2012.

Charles Henderson proved they meant business with a 24-7 mark in the regular season and possibly more impressive, a 6-0 mark in area play.

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“We fell like we have a better team than we did last year and the way we got beat (in the playoffs) is unacceptable,” Fox said. “This year’s team, I think, has a chance to be great. It’s going to tough in the playoffs because there are a lot of good teams but I think we have a shot.”

The Trojans sport a four-man rotation that has put together a 22-4 record.

Tripp Blackmon has headed the staff statistically with a 1.49 ERA and a 6-1 record. Houston Mabray is not far behind posting a 5-1 record with a 1.88 ERA.

Charles Henderson doesn’t drop off much after that Fox is 5-2 on the mound while Jalin Lawson, working mostly as the Trojans closer, is a perfect 6-0 and has struck out 35 batters in 32 1/3 innings of work.

“We feel really good about our top four guys,” head coach Derek Irons said. “Even if we get deep into a third game, we feel confident that we have guys that can come in and throw strikes.”

One method Irons uses to help his players concentrate on the game within the game is winning the ‘freebie’ battle. Freebies come when a player reaches on a walk or hit by pitch or if a runner advances of scores on wild pitch, error, or any other mistake. According to Irons when the Trojans win the freebie battle, the team is 57-0 in the last few seasons in which he’s kept the records.

“It’s a way to keep everyone in the game and win the little battles that add up to help you win or lose a game,” Irons said. “It’s to the point now that when something happens the players on the bench recognize it and know we’re taking advantage of mistakes.”

Another team goal that Irons has set is for the offense to get at least five players to the plate every inning.

“We feel like if we can get five guys to the plate we have a good chance of scoring,” Fox said. “All it take is one pitch and one swing to do some damage.”

The method paid off in the Trojans finale against Enterprise. In the fourth inning down 7-2 with two outs, the Trojans worked two runners on. The fifth batter of the inning, Morgan Shaver, grounded a ball to third base. The Wildcats third baseman fielded it cleanly but attempted to tag the runner advancing to third instead of throwing to first. Charles Henderson took advantage as Joey Denison then lined a grand slam over the wall in left field to bring Charles Henderson within one. Chase Smartt then smashed a pitch to right field for a solo home run. The Trojans focus three batters earlier was to just get the fifth man to the plate. Before they knew it, the game was tied.

The Trojans will face Tallassee High School in the first round of the AHSAA state playoffs.

Charles Henderson looks to combine its dominating pitching staff that has a team ERA of 2.50 and a potent offense averaging eight runs per game into a winning combination.

Tallassee (14-17) comes in as the second seed in their area behind perennial power Russell County.

The teams will play a doubleheader on Friday starting at 4:30p.m.

An if-neccessary game will be played a 1p.m. on Saturday if the teams split.