By Thomas Sellers Jr.
BARTLETT — The next man to inherit the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Baseball program is a son of the winning tradition.
Jacob Cole has played in the Rebel uniform and in recent years he was aside longtime head coach Brad Smith. When Smith decided to move on taking over the Arlington Tiger Baseball program, Cole was selected by TRA administration to succeed his mentor.
“It’s an honor and a little surreal,” Cole said last Thursday. “I text Smith Monday. It didn’t hit me until Monday that he’s gone and it’s 100 percent on me. I handed over that lineup card and it hit me. ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Things started on the right foot for Cole and his Rebels beating St. Benedict that Monday (March 15). Approaching a 2-0 record on Tuesday, the MUS Owls rallied back to edge TRA 8-7.
Then it was time for Cole’s coaching debut against a public school team in Class 2A defending champions the Covington Chargers at Freeman Park.
The Rebels were looking good behind the pitching performance of Eli Ramsey only trailing 2-1. On a pitch count, Cole and staff pulled Ramsey after three innings of action.
The fourth inning belonged to Covington scoring 12 runs in the frame leading to a 14-3 win in five innings.
“Early on like in the offseason it has just been tough,” Cole acknowledged of his new role. “You’ve got the COVID stuff you’ll be dealing with at school. TRA shutdown after Thanksgiving. These seniors have been great in the offseason but right now we’re playing like a bunch who has never played high school baseball.
“The baseball stuff, the ins and outs of baseball, I know that stuff,” he added. “I wasn’t worried about that. It’s making sure I am dotting ‘Is’ and crossing all the ‘Ts.’ Getting all the paperwork side done has been challenging. Then this pandemic has struck our school with Coach (Joe) Layton getting sick. The people at school have been really good, they’ve been stepping up taking over for him and making sure they’re helping me out as a new coach. They’re making sure I got stuff the way its supposed to be done.”
Cole and his staff scheduled the Lewis Harris Tournament to begin the season to pack in a variety of games. TRA had 10 games on the agenda in the opening two weeks of action.
“As far as on the field, the seniors have really, really good about leading the program,” he noted. “Today just wasn’t our day. We’ve got 8 seniors this year, a good group. They lost a season with each other in 2020.
“They’re a really tight group,” Cole continued. “They do a lot of stuff together outside of baseball off the field. They’re trying to figure it out right now. They’re trying to figure out their roles. As juniors they were fortunate to have big senior groups in ‘18 and ‘19. Those were classes those kids were playing a lot”
The 2020 season was a chance for his Class of 2021 to get a chance to build experience mentally and physically with the varsity level.
“And they had a big senior class right in front of them last year,” Cole said. “They’ve kind of got to watch. They got a chance to figure out stuff on the JV level. Then last year was the year some of them were going to get in and get in some of that experience in big games. Right now we’re all learning about these big games together.”
One of Cole’s experienced seniors Tucker James tied the game at 1-1 in the third inning with a RBI single scoring fellow senior Patrick Green.
After Covington regained the lead in the third inning courtesy of a Christopher Godwin base hit. The score was 2-1 Chargers after three and half innings of action.
Then the overcast sky started to pour Covington runs in the fourth inning with RBI hits coming off the bats of Carson Ruffin, Brennen Forbess and Holden Warmath. The Chargers took advantage of TRA miscues, walks and timely hitting to compile 12 runs in the bottom of the fourth to build a 14-1 advantage.
TRA display some fight in the fifth inning with Ramsey stroking a leadoff double. James drove in his second run of the day coming up with a single. The final RBI of the game came off the bat of senior Noah Roland with a double to make the final 14-3.
“It’s going to be a learning curve for them,” Cole said. “I’ve got 8 senior which is really good. But only three of them have really played a full season with us Zach Steward, Patrick Green and Tucker James. It’s playing a little bit of catch up.
“We have moments you can’t tell like Monday and then today we played really bad,” he concluded. “This is a group that hasn’t played a whole lot of high school baseball. But I feel we’re going to get there and this group loves playing for each other. They’ve just got to continue doing that and we’ll be OK.”