BRADENTON, Fla. – It was everything he hoped it would be and more.
When the Troup Tigers were invited to participate in the IMG National Classic in Florida, head coach Craig Garner researched the event to see if it would be something worthwhile for his team.
Garner felt it would be beneficial for the Tigers, so he signed his team up for the 10-team tournament at the IMG facility in Bradenton.
The Tigers wrapped up their stay in the tournament on Friday and they returned home a day later, and Garner said it was a massively successful trip.
“The tournament, everything about it was awesome,” Garner said. “You couldn’t ask for a better tournament. It was great competition, great facilities, a great experience all the way around. It was better than what I imagined.”
From a competitive standpoint, Troup got to play four elite teams, and it went 2-2.
The Tigers opened with back-to-back wins to reach the semifinals, and they lost their final two games, but they still finished in fourth place.
In its tournament finale, Troup lost to IMG Academy 5-4 in a game that featured nine combined errors, including six by Troup that led to four unearned runs.
Troup’s defense was impacted by the loss of four starters who were unable to play for various reasons, and Garner said the heavy winds affected both teams.
“There were some things that wouldn’t have happened if we’ve of had everybody,” Garner said. “And they made a few (errors), too. The wind was blowing. I remember one of the popups we did in pre-game, and the ball literally was blown 100 feet.”
Garner was proud of how his team performed during the week, especially with the absence of so many key players.
More than half of Troup’s starters were either freshmen or sophomores, and they held their own.
“The last three games, we started three freshmen,” Garner said. “For the most part, to be a senior-laden team, we were inexperienced for the most part during the tournament.”
Troup should be back at full strength this week as it resumes its quest for a Region 5-AAAA championship.
Troup (12-5 overall) is 5-1 in the region, and it is in first place, with Whitewater (6-3), Woodward Academy (5-4) and Carrollton (5-4) giving chase.
Troup plays Sandy Creek three times this week.
Sandy Creek will be the host team on Tuesday and Friday, and Thursday’s game is at Troup.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports