In a remarkable turnaround to a challenging season, the East Ridge High School baseball team will play Hixson Wednesday afternoon for the District 6 A/AA title.
Second-year coach Randall Boldin said he is as surprised as anyone as to the reasons his team has suddenly found its stride.
“I can’t explain it,” Coach Boldin said Wednesday morning in a telephone interview. “After two years of frustration, we’re finally coming together as a team.
The Pioneers have a total of eight wins this season, including a 13-3 drubbing of Central to get them a shot at Hixson for the district title. Last year East Ridge had one legitimate win, along with a handful of other wins attributed to forfeited games, Coach Boldin said.
This year East Ridge regularly starts one freshman and two sophomores, Coach Boldin said. They are a young squad that is beginning to mature. Last year, he said, the roster included only three or four athletes who had any baseball experience at all. With a year under their belts improvement is starting to become apparent.
Coach Boldin said early in the year the Pioneer bats were cold and mental errors were aplenty.
“This year the seniors are more focused and they are practicing hard every day,” he said. “Couple that with the younger players that are really beginning to understand the game.”
In the signature win (thus far) against Central, Coach Boldin said “we got really hot and were hitting everything. Plus we cut down on the errors.”
East Ridge is expected to start Jesse Jones on the mound this afternoon. The outstanding defensive back for the Pioneer football team is winless on the season.
Coach Boldin said that Jones’ one-run loss to Red Bank in a regular season district game “sums up the year.”
Jones struck out 20 batters, which is believed to be a school record. He has some problems with the command of the strike zone, but in a seven-inning game a team only needs 21 outs.
Red Bank had runners on first and second and the batter hits a walk-off line drive that scores two runs. Game over.
The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Hixson’s diamond. In the double-elimination tournament, the Wildcats have yet to lose, so the Pioneers must win two games if they are to become the District 6 A/AA champs. Regardless, East Ridge has qualified for the Region 3 AA Tournament, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in Pioneerville in many, many years.