First Time in Three Years
With the season coming to a close, the Cougars found themselves with an opportunity to compete for the title of Champions of the Atlanta Athletic Conference. Although the AAC Championships had not been held over the past two seasons, it has been a place that TCS is more than familiar with. Under the managerial leadership of former coach Cecil Lancaster, the team secured wins in four straight AAC Championships before the conference was upturned in 2020 due to Covid-19. Under the new leadership of Coach Stephen and Coach Jamal, the team was looking to repeat that success and form another baseball dynasty for the program. Having faced Mill Springs two previous times in the season, and winning both contests, the Cougars had secured an optimistic mentality as well as the position of home team- despite being at the opposing teams venue.
The Drive for Five!
Over the past six years, the Cottage School Cougars and the Mill Springs Mustangs have faced off four times to decide who would hoist the AAC Championship trophy. The past two years, the seasons were put on hold due to Covid-19. This year, the teams would meet once more to answer that same question. Having won both regular season matchups, the Cougars came in as the heavily favored home team, but the Mighty Mustangs of Mill Springs had the knowledge of the field and a rowdy crowd of spectators ready to create a difficult challenge for the Courageous Cats of Cottage. With the home team advantage, TCS took to the field first and Freshman Caden Henderson to the mound. Catching Caden was veteran Ronnie Graver. Around the horn, TCS fielded Jack Kane at third, Anthony Kovach at short, Bryce DIckerson at second, Sam Bayer at first, and an outfield that consisted of Alex Hogg in left, Aidan Briggs in center and Liv Robertson in right.
As the first Mustang batter came to the plate, Caden was looking to make quick work as he had the batter down early to an 0-2 count. Unable to put the batter away, however, Caden gave up a slow roller to the shortstop who fielded cleanly but could not get the throw to first in time. With the leadoff batter on, the pressure was mounting and Caden seemed to fall out of his groove as he fell behind to the next batter and allowed the Mustang runner the chance to move up two bases on steals. Able to regain control, Caden fought his way back to record a strikeout to batter number two. Still with a runner on and now one out, the inning was far from over as a hit batsman and two walks not only loaded the bases but allowed the first Mill Springs run to cross the plate this season. With the bases still loaded full of ponies, Caden was able to get a second strike out to the 6th batter for out number two before a slew of questionable calls by the home plate umpire allowed another walk and a second run to score. Having seen enough of this, Caden calmed himself down and proceeded to strike out the next batter to end the top half of the inning.
Heading into the bottom of the first the Cougars were led off by former manager Liv Robertson. Gaining more crowd attention than any other player of the season, Liv stepped in against the Mill Springs hurler. After going down quickly to an 0-2 count, the at bat got very exciting when a dropped third strike allowed Liv to race down to first to beat the throw. Unfortunately for Liv, the throw narrowly beat her to the bag for out number one. Through the rest of the inning, station to station baseball was the name of the game as a single by Bryce Dickerson, a hit by pitch for Alex Hogg, and an RBI single by Jack Kane cut the Mustang lead in half and gave the Cougars two baserunners with only one out and the heart of the lineup coming to the plate. Following Jack’s RBI single, the next to add some runs to the game would be Aidan Briggs who crushed a ball to the fence in right center. Looking to get around the bases for an inside the park home run, Aidan rounded third and put everything he had into his slide at the plate. Unfortunately, the umpire’s judgment on the play was different than everyone else at the game as she called Aidan out trying to extend his triple. Regardless of the questionable call, AIdan’s two RBIs successfully gave TCS the lead as they now went up 3-2 with two outs in the inning. Continuing the hit parade, the next three batters would reach through singles and two of them would score before a deep fly to center field by Ronnie ended the inning. At the end of the first, the score was now TCS 5 and MSA 2.
With the first inning concluded, Caden made his way back to the mound and the defense back to their positions. The only change being Weston Kershner would replace Liv in the lineup and play second while Bryce would move to her spot in right field. Looking to get the inning over quickly, Caden fired away to strike out the inning’s leadoff batter on 4 pitches before giving up a single to the second batter. Fortunately for the Cougars, this was harmless as the next two batters would strike out back to back and end the inning.
Looking to take advantage of the harmless top half of the inning, the offense went right back to work with the top of the order. Taking over for Liv, Weston stepped in for his first plate appearance and laced a single down the left field line. Following a walk to the next batter, Bryce, and another single by Alex Hogg, the bases were loaded for Jack Kane to break the game wide open. Reaching on a fielding error by the first baseman that robbed Jack of his second RBI of the game, the bases remained loaded for Aidan to come back up and follow up his first inning production. Proving that lightning can, in fact, strike twice, AIdan crushed the second pitch of the at bat to almost the exact same spot in the outfield. Not looking to get thrown out at the plate again, he stopped at second with a 3 RBI triple and still no outs in the inning. Anthony followed up by singling and scoring Aidan before a controversial third strike to Sam Bayer gave TCS their first out. Following Sam’s strikeout, Caden continued his offensive success with a nice double and subsequent stolen bases led to his scoring his own insurance run. With the bags clear, Ronnie was looking to put the ball into play and join his teammates in the fun however the Mustang defense had him played perfectly as his second monster drive of the game found its way into the center fielder’s glove. Heading back to the top of the lineup Weston, Bryce and Alex all made their way back on base courtesy of a single, a walk, and a hit batsmen in what seemed like DeJa’Vu of earlier in the inning. Alas, the same result would not be found as Jack Kane popped out to the second baseman for the final out of the inning. Although the rally came to an end, the scoring increased the TCS lead to 10 as they were now up 12-2.
In the top of the third inning, the Mustang offense seemed to have a little life left in them as they were able to transform two walks, a hit batter and a huge double into two more runs before being retired. Although the score book tells a short and sweet story, what it fails to recognize is the tremendous pitching performance displayed throughout the inning. For example, the two walks issued were both full counts that could have easily ended in strikeouts. The same could be said about the hit batter and the double, both of which had batters facing two strike counts. In fact, of the eight batters to come to the plate in the inning, five of them would see two strikes before the at bats were over! Talk about pitching your heart out and catching some bad breaks!
Leading off the third inning for the good guys, Aidan Briggs found his way to another hit on the day as a monster double and stolen base gave the Cougars an early threat of a runner on third and no outs. Following a strikeout to Anthony and a walk to Sam, Caden was, once again, looking to add more insurance runs as he hit his third of the day in the form of a triple that scored two. This now had Caden a home run away from the cycle! Still with one out, Ronnie finally found himself on base for the first time in the game as the Mustang pitcher beaned him on the first pitch of the at bat. Making the most out of his time on base, Ronnie swiped second on the next pitch but was singled out by the defense two batters later as Hayden Crosbie hit into a fielder’s choice at third for his only at bat of the game. The benefit of this, however, was that it allowed Caden to score uncontested and another Cougar insurance run came across the plate. The final batter of the inning was Jack McGrew who came in for Alex before proceeding to be caught looking at a called third strike to end the inning.
With the clock winding down for the Mustangs, Caden took to the mound once more in the top of the fourth. Against protests of the coaching staff, Caden wanted to go the distance and throw the season’s first complete game. Despite hitting the first batter and walking the second, Caden allowed his defense to help him out as a nice pick off to first and slick shortstop to second fielder’s choice recorded the first two outs of the inning. With runners on first and third, however, coaches decided that his bright future was more important than the final out of one game. Therefore, the team turned to Aidan to fill the Mariano Rivera role and shut the door on the Mustangs in the fourth. Caden would move to short and Anthony to center to fill in the holes made by the shift but it would not matter at all as it took just four pitches to strike out the final batter of the game and solidify the fifth straight AAC title for the Cougars.
As the coaches got together following the game, it was a unanimous decision that the AAC Championship MVP award be presented to Mr. Aidan Briggs. Going three for three with his two triples, double, stolen base, AND five RBIs would have been enough for the title but wait… he also closed out the game with a strikeout for a perfect bookends to the TCS season.
Game Stats Below!
|4- Liv Robertson||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|9- Bryce Dickerson||1||2||1||2||0||0|
|12- Alex Hogg||1||2||1||0||0||0|
|14- Jack Kane||2||2||1||0||1||0|
|2- Aidan Briggs||3||2||3||0||5||1|
|1- Anthony Kovach||3||2||2||0||1||2|
|6- Sam Bayer||2||2||1||1||0||0|
|5- Caden Henderson||3||1||3||0||4||1|
|10- Rinnie Graver||2||0||0||0||0||1|
|3- Weston Kershner||2||1||2||1||0||0|
|7- Hayden Crosbie||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|0- Jack McGrew||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|7- Hayden Crosbie||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|5- Caden Henderson||3.2||3||4||6||7|
|2- Aidan Briggs||0.1||0||0||0||1|