Ryan Heacock seized the moment.
Last week I wrote that the Thomson High baseball team needed to learn how to seize the moment in tough games in order to be successful. In the region playoff elimination game against Burke County on May 2, Heacock did just that. With the Bulldogs down 5-4 and two outs in the bottom of the final inning, the senior shortstop lined a three-run walk-off homerun over the centerfield fence to send his team to the state playoffs.
I dare not take any credit for Ryan's feat. He did not read my column before it went to press that very night. He did help make my point, however. His homer was just the kind of big time play that I was thinking of when I wrote the words "seize the moment."
For any team to be a winner, players have to come through just when things look the bleakest. Players have to develop the confidence in themselves that they can hit the game winner, score the winning basket, or catch the last second touchdown pass. They have to do it. He can't wait on somebody else or depend on the coach to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Players on television often call it "stepping up." Call it what you will, it's what it takes to make a winner.
The Bulldogs will now trek to Griffin to take on Region 4-AAA champion Spalding High School in the first round of the state playoffs. The Jaguars bring an impressive record of 21-3 into the best-of-three series. The Jaguars' only losses came in a doubleheader to Opelika, Ala., on March 11 and to Jackson High School on April 1. They have played several large Atlanta area schools and handled them all.
A point that should be made is that last year Spalding had a record of 14-10. So far this season Thomson's record is 15-9. With the right attitude and hard work, Spalding proves that a team can make a big leap in just one year.
Thomson had to travel all the way to Savannah last Thursday to take on Benedictine in a game to determine the third and fourth seeding from Region 3-AAA in the state playoffs. Thomson lost to the Cadets 14-2, thusly bracketing them against what appears on paper to be a powerhouse opponent in Spalding.
Whoever came up with the Region 3-AAA playoff plan deserves a little criticism in my book. It was great to allow three teams from each sub-region into the playoffs. This helped guarantee that the four best teams out of the 13 would make it to state. My beef is with the fact that the final two qualifiers had to play a meaningless game just to determine the third and fourth seeds.
Thomson and Benedictine were both already qualified for the state tournament and both teams were going to have to travel in round one. Sure everybody likes to settle things on the field, but was it really smart to have this game in the plan? Thomson had to travel all the way to Savannah on a school evening.
Even if the travel was only 20 miles, a player could have been injured or, heaven forbid, a bus accident could have occurred. And then there's the price of fuel. That's just my two cents worth, and I said it even before Thomson lost the game.
On another note, nobody can keep a secret like the members of the Augusta National. The choice of Billy Payne as their new chairman was hush-hush as far as I know.
I can recall Payne being interviewed on the pre-game radio show of a Georgia football game just after the announcement that he had lured the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta. The interviewer, maybe Loran Smith, commented how important it was that an event like the Olympics would be held in Georgia.
I will never forget Payne's response. He answered that, yes, the Olympics would be very important, but not as important as what happens in Athens every year on fall Saturdays.
If he were asked that question now in regards to the Masters, I wonder what he would say. You and I both know what I would say. I'll bet Billy Payne might plead the fifth.