TANNER — Some larger high schools have the luxury of producing special athletes year after year. For smaller schools, that talent comes in waves.
Tanner has a tidal wave of talent in its senior class this year and some of it will be on display Friday when the Rattlers host Hatton in a first-round playoff game.
“Sometimes you get a group that is smart and not that athletic or the other way around,” Tanner head coach Austin Marsh said. “The good thing about this group is they have a combination of both. They are a competitive group. You saw it with the football team and last year’s basketball state championship team. It’s a lot of the same guys.”
Marsh has Tanner back to where the baseball program was when he played under coach Chris Whitt from 1991-93. Those Tanner teams made three straight trips to the postseason.
This will be Tanner’s first time hosting a first-round playoff game since 2002. Marsh credits a solid senior class for the team’s success this season.
“This is the most seniors I’ve ever had,” Marsh said about his 10 seniors. “This group took it on the chin for two years as freshmen and sophomores. It’s paying off for them now. We’ve got about 11 guys that could hit on a given day.”
A major reason why Tanner has such a solid senior class has been from Marsh’s recruiting effort from the school’s other teams. The Tanner alum has many of the school’s best dual-sport athletes playing for him. Marsh remembers talking one of Tanner’s most famous dual-sport athletes into playing for his team years ago.
“I remember having to talk Reshard Langford into playing baseball,” Marsh said. “He ended up starting in center field for us a couple of years. Tanner has always been good about sharing athletes. When I played, almost all the athletes played two or three sports.”
While many members of this team play multiple sports, a majority of them have played baseball most of their life. Players like Josh McCaig, who has been the team’s No.1 pitcher throughout the year. Along with McCaig, Marsh said his team has about “4 to 5 guys” they will throw in a three-game series. At the plate Tanner are led by Ryan Ledford and Landon Stephens, who have combined for more than a dozen home runs this season.
The Rattlers will need all the pitching depth and batting strength they can get if they are to advance past the first two rounds of the playoffs. If Tanner gets past Class 2A No. 10 Hatton this weekend, the Rattlers could face a trip to No. 1 Mars Hill in the second round.
Regardless of how this Tanner team performs Friday, it will always be remembered for a school record 22 wins. Tanner hopes to extend that number to 23 and 24 Friday night.
First pitch from Tanner will be at 4:30 p.m. Friday with the second game to follow at 7.