Middle schools ready for test on baseball field

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Right now, middle school students all around the area are focusing on the important TCAP test this week. However, this weekend a difference test will take place at Blackman Middle and High schools starting Saturday when the best middle school baseball teams in Rutherford County will decide a tournament champion.

Eleven teams from the area will head to Blackman Middle and Blackman High for the 2012 Rutherford County Middle School Tournament which will crown a champion on May 1.

Competition up and down the county has been very competitive, and this year’s tournament should be no different.

The top seed in this year’s tournament is the Oakland Middle Chargers, which comes in with a perfect 10-0 record under head coach Doug Birkofer. OMS will play the winner of the Central Magnet- Smyrna winner at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Blackman High. Birkofer was unable to speak to the Murfreesboro Post because of the TCAP testing.

Coaches of teams that are seeded two through five spoke and each believes his team has a shot, but also knows this year’s tournament is wide open.

The No. 2 seed, Stewart’s Creek, will face the winner of the Whitworth-Buchanan and Blackman game on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Falcons come in with a 9-1 record, and head coach Tim Crunk believes most of the team’s success has come from the mound led by Darek Sargent.

“We have thrown the ball extremely well,” Crunk said. “When you pitch well, you able to keep games close and give your team a chance to win.”

Crunk hopes for more of the same, and timely hitting in order to bring the title back to the school. Other Falcons to watch this weekend include clean up hitter Julian Shanklin.

The No. 3 seed is Siegel Middle, a team that finished 8-2 in the conference this season. However, the Cavaliers had to replace 15 players from last season’s  21-1 record team, which was the best in school history. SMS also are the defending tournament champions.

Head coach Mike Tobitt, who is in his 11th year at the school is hoping for error-free defense, and good starting pitching in the tournament. Siegel got a first round bye and will play the winner of La Vergne and Rockvale at 7 p.m. Saturday at BMS.

“I believe any one of the top six teams have a real chance at winning the tournament,” Tobitt said.

Siegel Players to watch include Hunter Uselton on the mound and Tyler Kirkland, Wesley Duffield, Jordan Middleton and Ryker Kristinus at the plate.

A key quarterfinal match-up will be between the No. 4 seed Rock Springs and No. 5 Christiana, which takes place at 11 a.m. Saturday at BHS. The Knights come with 7-3 conference record, while Cougars finished tied for fifth with Rockvale. Both teams finished the season a 5-5 record inside the conference, but CMS won the tie-breaker over RMS since it won the head-to-head match-up during the regular season.

As for Rock Springs, Dustin Stem’s squad is led by catcher and team leader Micah McClellan, and power hitter Eason Shaffer. Stem knows this will be a tough first round game against  the Cougars.

“We cannot look ahead,” Stem said. “They can put runs on the board. Our pitchers have to hit their spots to be effective. We have to limit the errors.”

The Cougars are led by head coach Antonio Sheffield, who believes his pitching staff has been part of the reason the CMS earned the fifth seed in the tournament.

“Our pitching has been our strong point and we have capitalized on the other teams errors,” Sheffield said. He added he hopes it continues in the tournament. Also, the team wants to cut down on errors and win close games against teams that are higher ranked in the conference.

Cougars players to watch include Charlie Fultz on the mound, and Seth Wilson and Austin Bryant at the plate.  

Games will take place starting at 9 a.m. Saturday at Blackman High and Blackman Middle schools. The semifinals will be Sunday at BHS starting at 1 p.m. The title game will be Tuesday, May 1 at BHS with the first pitch at 7 p.m.
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Baseball, Oakland, Schools, Siegel, Sports, Stewarts Creek
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