Final Four Rams at Home Thursday Night - TribPapers

Final Four Rams at Home Thursday Night

Leadoff hitter J.T. Gordon (7) slides head-first to score the tying run for TCR Friday. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

SkylandT.C. Roberson Rams host a West Region series game today, Thursday, March 26 after winning four rounds with offensive barrages.

“Shock the state” is Ram head coach Eric Filipek’s battle cry for the next challenge; a formidable one on the surface. Tenth-seeded Roberson (22-6) tangles with unbeaten top seed Providence (31-0), which barely won Friday by 4-3. The East finalists are second seed Pinecrest and 13th seed Fuqua-Varina.

TCR is the last local baseball team standing after West Henderson dropped a 4-3 contest to visiting North Lincoln May 17.

Stinging the ‘Stangs

TCR scored nine runs in its last two at-bats to pull away from Marvin Ridge Mavericks, waxing the Waxhaw visitors 11-5 on May 17.

TCR then reined in another horse team at home, beating 11th-seeded Myers Park Mustangs (22-5) 4-1 Friday. Reaching the regional finals is “amazing,” star junior shortstop Nick Parham said.

Filipek told his Rams, “we won it as a family, as a team. We stepped up and did what it takes.”

Myers Park scored twice in the second inning, assisted by two errors on the same play.

But TCR got back one run, as freshman outfielder Zeb Swangim singled in pinch runner Nick Moses. Swangim said he read the pitcher and count, expected a fastball and smacked it. “I did my job,” to drive in the run. He felt “confident” in such clutch playoff situations.

Roberson put four huge runs on the board in the fourth frame. “That’s all it took,” Parham said. Tyler Kytta walked. Swangim was hit by a pitch. Caleb Baker looped a single to left center, to score fleet pinch runner Lorenzo Lyles. Leadoff hitter J.T. Gordon walked, loading the bases. Parham lined a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Swangim.

Senior Ben Hemphill races around third to score, in round three. Hemphill’s two-run double was the big hit in round four. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Senior Ben Hemphill races around third to score, in round three. Hemphill’s two-run double was the big hit in round four. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Ben Hemphill drove in two runs, opening up the lead. He bashed a deep opposite-field double that nearly hit the right field wall on the fly. He grooved a fastball off the hard throwing starter. Lanky senior Hemphill welcomes such chances to “put the team on my back.” He appreciates fellow Rams’ contributions, as many take turns starring. “We have trust in each other, our coaches and the Lord.”

Rowing Rams

Master motivator Filipek has a playoff teamwork metaphor: a rowing squad. The craft moves efficiently when all row strongly together. He equates a standard eight-person rowing team with the eight victories it takes to win it all; two wins each in best-of-three series for regional and state titles.

Filipek announces in the post-game huddle a top “coxswain” game leadership award — a taped up tennis racquet “oar.” It is named for the team’s steerer (coxswain). A secondary “stroke” excellence award is named after the rower closest to the rear/stern. Teammates carry these honorees on their shoulders around the field.

Found four coxswain co-winners were senior Hemphill and freshmen lefty Micah Simpson. Simpson pitched three and two-thirds scoreless innings, splitting the game with sophomore starter Reno Jeter. They combined on a sterling two-hitter.

Jeter got the stroke award. He settled in, after giving up both runs in the second. He said his confidence rebounded from pitching a scoreless third inning. “He didn’t crack,” and kept TC in the game, Filipek said.

He lauded Simpson’s consistent effort. Simpson felt “extra pumped” by the last inning, in which he fanned a batter and induced two groundouts. He is proud about allowing no walks, and throwing strikes to “fill up the zone” and “put it into play” for outs. 

Mashing the Mavs

Roberson pulled away from Marvin Ridge a game earlier. Jeter’s three-run blast, his second one of the playoffs, powered a four-run fifth inning. “I took a ‘hack’ at it,” he said of the incoming fastball. “It takes one big hit to get going,” Filipek said.

TCR stayed hot, scoring five more runs an inning later. The Mavs’ defense helped by provoking five errors in the game.

Nick Parham said in the post-season, “we came out hotter” than before with hitting. “We’re hitting well again. We have momentum.”

First baseman Caleb Davidson said he “put the barrel on” the ball squarely, and “attacked early in the count.” Ram hitters often take many pitches, hoping to get ahead in the count and force the pitcher to throw a hittable strike.

The Mavs managed merely six hits. Jeter started for TCR. Swangim sparkled in middle relief. He said he was “focused,” not nervous in the high-stakes situation. “I know what I can do,” he said. “Zeb shut the door,” Filipek said. He gave stroke awards to Swangim and Parham, who finished up on the mound.

Workhorse Wyatt Dupree warmed up as a precaution but ultimately was not required. He pitched in 21 games. The most of any Ram hurler. He said it feels “very rewarding, working” in so many games. Not using closer Parham on Friday rests him for the games this week.

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