Julie Clanton looks helps a customer May 22, 2012, at the souvenir stand at StarPlex during Spring Fling softball games in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/J. Davis)
The best high school athletes from around the state in five different sports have traveled to the greatest city in Tennessee for this week’s 2012 BlueCross Spring Fling.
By the end of the week, state champions were crowned in five different sports: tennis, track, softball, baseball, soccer in all classifications.
Rutherford County has qualified athletes in every sport except softball.
At the same time, the area stars have an advantage this week because they do not have worry about travel issues, and they get to compete in a familiar setting.
“We love playing in our hometown, and in front of our home fans,” Riverdale senior relief pitcher Zack Westberry said after last Friday’s 9-3 sectional win over Warren Country. “Our fans are great, and they support us all of the time.”
Westberry was on the mound and helped get the final three outs in the victory. The win also clinched the Warriors first state berth since 2006. Riverdale play in the Class AAA tournament here in town, but not on its home field.
Instead, the Warriors will have to play at Siegel High, but they hope to finish the job at MTSU where the title game will be played on Friday.
The Warriors head coach Barry Messer has coached in the state tournament before, but this will be his first trip to the elite eight with the Warriors.
He feels that his team will be in comfort zone by playing on familiar fields during the postseason.
“We are excited about the opportunity, and you can not win it unless you get there,” Messer said. “We have a chance to make some noise in the tournament.”
Speaking of familiarity, both the Oakland boys and Siegel girls tennis teams, played its matches at the tennis courts at Old Fort Park. The Patriots clinched its first team berth for the first time in a few years, while the Lady Stars made another appearance. Both teams play regular season matches at the local outdoor tennis complex, so like the Riverdale High School baseball team, they will be in familiar territory.
“That is going to be big, playing on our home court,” OHS tennis player Ben Godwin said. “All of us play here all of the time, so we are familiar with the courts. It’s one extra advantage for us to use.”
Godwin helped Oakland High School win its overall sectional match last Thursday 4-1 over Cleveland. However, the players know they will face some tough competition as they try to win the school’s first team state title since 2008 when the football team won the trophy.
“It’s going to benefit us a little bit, playing here and sleeping in your own bed,” OHS tennis star James Myers said. “I think we will be a lot of good players here. So we have to play the best to our abilities, and see how deep we go.”
Myers scored the winning point during his singles match against CHS last week, and clinched the overall team win for Oakland.
As for Siegel, both of its boys and girls team have enjoyed a lot of success in a short amount of time in the state tournament. Since the school was born back in the fall of 2003, the Stars have placed the team or individuals in the state tennis playoffs every year except for 2004 and 2010. In 2008, the Lady Stars team won the team state tennis title. SHS tennis head coach Jeff Martin hopes his squad will benefit from the home field advantage.
“It’s going to be our advantage to stay here and play on our courts,” Martin said last week. “The home support has been a big thing for us, hopefully it will us that extra boost.”
It always helps all sides involved in getting a chance to stay at home and go for the biggest title in their high school careers. Also, their biggest supporters, friends and family, are already nearby and only have to make the usual trip like during the regular season to see them play. That is always a good thing.
By the end of this week, hopefully, the area will get to keep some trophies here in the best city in Tennessee.