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The driving force
Tankersley's bat led 'Dogs on playoff run

THOMSON --- Will Tankersley will always call Thomson his first home, but it didn't take him long to realize the baseball field was another home.

The recent graduate has played baseball year-round since seventh grade, and he still can't get enough of it.

"For some reason, when I play, it makes me feel like I'm home," Tankersley said. "It makes you feel good. It's just fun playing it."

This season, Tankersley helped Thomson set a school record for victories as the Bulldogs advanced to the Class AAA state semifinals for the second consecutive year. The left fielder hit .494 and had nine home runs as Thomson went 28-4. With his strong season, Tankersley is The Augusta Chronicle's Georgia baseball player of the year.

Tankersley, who is solid in the field, was also a threat to hit one out of the park seemingly every pitch, even if teams pitched around him as the season progressed.

Jason Osborn, Thomson's head coach the past two seasons, was impressed with Tankersley's determination to fix any problems.

The USC Aiken signee struggled to hit curveballs as a junior, the coach remembers. But Tankersley spent time in the batting cage to figure things out.

Before long, Tankersley was crushing 1-2 or even 0-2 curveballs.

"He's done a lot of things in high school baseball you don't see many do," Osborn said. "He's probably got some of the best hands I've seen from a high school kid -- not many people can throw fastballs by him."

In this year's state tournament, Tankersley had six extra-base hits, even driving in five runs in a single game as the Bulldogs scored at least 10 runs in each their first five playoff games.

Tankersley has played with some of his teammates since T-ball, and he said they all grew up playing basketball and baseball and going swimming together.

He didn't know the group would go on to win region titles or advance deep in the state tournament, but Tankersley thinks their strong history helped the team play together.

Though the past two seasons might have ended in disappointment with losses in the semifinals, Tankersley understands he's leaving high school after reaching a level of success he didn't know could be reached.

"When I first got here, I didn't know if we could or not," Tankersley said about making the state semifinals. "But now I see we can."

Web posted on Thursday, June 16, 2011

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