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Baseball, Verdun Wheeler camp make for a beautiful sports week

There were two great events of the sporting nature held locally last weekend, and they were both things of beauty. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in this beholder's eyes these occurrences were indeed a joy to watch.

On Friday evening, the Thomson High Bulldogs defeated the Harlem Bulldogs 2-0 in a huge sub-region baseball game. The fact that this was a giant win for the local Diamond Dogs can really go unsaid. Everybody that keeps up with area high school baseball knew the importance of this game. It was great that our guys came out on top, but I must comment on the way the game was played.

The line score for the game was Thomson; two runs on five hits and one error while Harlem had no runs on four hits with no errors. That is a line score that you seldom see in high school baseball unless you are at the state semifinal or championship level. By comparison, Thomson lost to ARC on the previous Monday by a score of 18-17 in nine innings, 4 hours and 15 minutes. They beat Glenn Hills the next day 15-2. See what I mean?

The thing of beauty is that the game, with a lot of pressure on both teams but especially Thomson, was so well played. It was as clean of a game that you could imagine seeing. The reason? As usual, it all starts on the mound, and both teams' pitchers were superb.

Thomson's Stephen Kreppes and Harlem's Rodney Scruggs both went the distance throwing in the neighborhood of 120 pitches each. They both did a remarkable job of changing speeds and staying in or near the strike zone. The pitch counts were so high simply because both teams must have fouled off a gazillion pitches. To me that was a sign that the pitchers were just ahead of the hitters but the hitters were mentally tough enough to battle their way into deep counts at the plate before being retired.

Out on the field, both defenses stayed on their toes and were ready to make the play when the ball was hit to them. The only error was a throwing error by Thomson on a play where the runner was going to be safe anyway, but the bad throw gave him an extra base. It did not hurt.

Thomson coach Terry Holder pointed out to me that defenses will be good when the pitcher is in a rhythm and somewhat knocking the bats out of the hitters' hands. Neither pitcher was overpowering striking out batters, but they never let them get comfortable at the plate.

Both teams survived some tense moments, including Harlem loading the bases in the first inning, but the pitching and defense won out except on two occasions. Thomson pushed across single runs in the second and sixth innings to come out a winner.

If you think baseball is boring, you missed a good chance to have your mind changed if you did not see this game. There's one more opportunity in the regular season tomorrow at 6 p.m. when the Bulldogs play host to Washington County.

On Saturday, Danny Verdun-Wheeler's Championship Camp drew approximately 135 youngsters to participate in drills involving the fundamental skills of football. Danny depended on his brother Chris Tutt to help him organize this event. He had among other Georgia Bulldog teammates Martrez Milner, Fernando Velasco and Justin Anderson to "coach up" the kids. I also saw Thomson coaches John Barnett and Brad Smith leading drills. There were many others as well.

Danny and Chris led the Maxwell Elementary and Thomson Elementary student bodies on Friday in a CRCT pep rally and really got the kids excited, I am told. Danny is working diligently to spread the message of training the mind and the body and the importance of character development at a young age. He realizes that there is no mechanism like athletics to teach impressionable young boys these lessons.

The NFL draft is this weekend, and with so much negative publicity from pro players out there, some team would be wise to grab Danny and those like him. Danny is a stand-up guy who has been "raised right." He is intent on setting a good example for those following in his footsteps. The NFL needs Danny a whole lot more than he needs the NFL. I just hope they are smart enough to know it.

Web posted on Thursday, April 26, 2007

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