The Green Ridge baseball team won three games in 2013. Of its 12 losses last spring, 10 were by 10 runs or more.
This year’s Tigers are a different team.
Coming off a trip to the Kaysinger Conference semifinals, the Tigers are 8-6 and have gone from a team often on the wrong side of the run rule to a team that can compete with almost anyone.
Green Ridge coach Jason Ollison sees in his roster a group that always battles hard and players have bought in to the program.
“They put in the work,” Ollison said. “They’re doing what they need to do. Their attitudes are a lot more positive this year. They go out there with the belief that it can be done. We still fight through some things, but for the most part, these guys believe that they can do it. They’re not looking over their shoulder wondering who’s saying what about them and what they need to do. They’re just coming out and playing baseball and trying to have fun with it.”
In the semifinals of the Kaysinger Conference tournament on Monday at Cole Camp, the Tigers took an early 2-0 lead against Sacred Heart before the Gremlins rallied to take the lead in the third. But right until the final out, the Tigers were still in the game, stopping Sacred Heart from having a big inning, which would have put the game out of reach.
“We could have gotten down and given up another 10 runs and been blown out,” Ollison said. “But they fought through and made plays when they needed to and gave themselves a shot. When you get the tying run to the plate in the last inning, you know you’ve got a shot to win it.”
Another indication of the new Green Ridge came in the game before, as the Tigers beat Cole Camp 15-1. Last year in the games the Tigers won, they often weren’t winning by wide margins. This season, they beat Leeton 23-14, Smithton 11-4 and Lincoln 15-2.
“Last year, we’d score four or five runs on people and then we’d just stop and we’d let them get back in and then we’d have a fight,” Ollison said. “This year, we’re scoring four or five this inning, four or five the next inning. We’re able to do that. It’s making us a lot better team.”
One of the biggest pieces to the puzzle has been Zac Callahan, a transfer from Smith-Cotton who has found a place in the Green Ridge pitching rotation and the heart of the Tigers’ batting order.
“He throws a fastball and a changeup,” Ollison said. “He’s got a little curveball. I tell him that it’s a Little League curveball but it does the job. He tries to throw a knuckleball. When he’s feeling good, he does good. His main thing is location. When he works down in the zone, he’s effective.”
Relieving Callahan in Monday’s game against Sacred Heart was Taylor Hoos.
“He fills up the zone,” Ollison said. “He works the corners and he changes speeds. He works the ball below the waist and he’s pretty good.”
Green Ridge is getting it done despite not having a pitcher who can overpower hitters.
“We don’t have one throwing the ball 80 miles an hour,” Ollison said. “We have to be a little smarter about pitch location and my guys do that.”
Green Ridge will only lose a couple of seniors from this year’s team, so Ollison feels the Tigers are well positioned for the future. He would just like to see his players get more involved in baseball outside of the spring season.
“The next level is getting these guys to play in June, July and August,” Ollison said. “Where they learn different scenarios. That’s the biggest difference (Monday) between us and Sacred Heart. You could tell their guys had been in situations a lot, and my guys play 15-20 games a year and that’s it. When we get to that next step, we can talk about doing other things, not just at the conference level but at the state level.”