From the Sidelines: Tigers look to rivalry game

Published 11:09 pm Friday, March 20, 2009

Monday’s game between Demopolis and Thomasville promises to be thrilling. Thomasville enters at 9-2, the No. 5 team in AHSAA 4A. Conversely, Demopolis just snapped a long winning streak with a win over Lee to move to 5-13.

But don’t let the disparity in records fool you. This promises to be one of the most entertaining games of the year.

Last season, Demopolis dropped a heartbreaking extra-inning clash on the road. Then the teams met on a Saturday in Demopolis. On that day Thomasville battered Demopolis pitching for 17 runs. Unfortunately for the visiting Tigers, 17 proved to be not quite enough when Demopolis staged a nine-run rally in the home half of the seventh win the game.

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Earlier this season the teams met again. And in true Demopolis-Thomasville fashion, the game came down to only a handful of plays as the blue-striped Tigers fell 6-4.

Monday figures to be a different story for Demopolis. After a series of gut-wrenching losses, the hometown Tigers finally won a tight ball game Wednesday in Wetumpka.

if the top of the lineup continues to hit the way it did against Lee — a combined 5-for-6 with three sacrifices and a hit-by-pitch between the first and second batters Demopolis could make it a very long day for Thomasville.

Head coach Ben Ramer has already said that the Tigers will save their most experienced arms for Tuesday’s all-important area clash with Carver. That means Shelby Speegle and Trey Oates are not likely to see action on the mound. That translates to opportunity for a number of other Tiger hurlers looking to make their mark in Demopolis lore the way Cameron Barger did last year when he pitched two and a third relief innings against Thomasville to pick up the win in that 18-17 barnburner.

No matter who toes the rubber for Demopolis, all the stunning defense and stellar pitching it can muster likely won’t be enough to topple Thomasville if the home team doesn’t get its work done at the plate.

The old adage is simple. “Hitting is contagious.” If such is the case, Demopolis was apparently immune to such communicable diseases headed into Wetumpka. While the DHS managed only one extra-base hit during the three-game stretch a Chase Cameron double against the hosting Indians the team did erupt for nine singles against Lee to wrap up the tournament. That is a marked improvement for a team that just needed to put the ball in play and make something happen during its recent painful winning streak. (The Tigers struck out 16 times against Alabama Christian to open the tournament).

All the tools are unquestionably there for Demopolis. And there is no better time for the team to put it all together than against Thomasville, the team DHS would like to beat perhaps more than anyone on its schedule.

Expect Demopolis to show up to the ballpark and do its part. The question is this. What role will the fans play in the game?

Demopolis is unquestionably a baseball town. That is evident every time someone references that state championship that featured players like Devin Goodwin and George Washington. But the games tend to draw a crowd that is predominantly limited to the family members of players. Monday’s crowd figures to be even more sparse considering that the junior varsity is scheduled to take part in a double-header against Sweet Water at the Sports-Plex while its varsity counterparts host their rivals.

Granted, games are won and lost between the lines. But there is no overstating the impact an enthusiastic, supportive crowd can have on the psyche of young ballplayers.

Yes. It is a Monday and 24 is airing. But that’s why there is TiVo. Yes. It is right after Spring Break. But it is also the last time six seniors will take the field against their school’s most bitter of rivals. And that sounds like the formula for something pretty spectacular.

The challenge for Demopolis as a team is to shut out everything else, put it all together and perform on the field. The challenge for Demopolis as a community is to show up and support its team even when the record isn’t so sterling. That could just prove to be one of the key ingredients that has been missing from the DHS recipe all season long.