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Krohn: Team-first Trojans never say die

POSTED: April 4, 2011 12:13 a.m.

North Hall started the baseball season splitting its first two games, losing the second 11-1 to Flowery Branch. In their third game of the season, the Trojans were on their way to another sound defeat in their Region 8-AAA opener at White County, trailing 9-3 through five innings.

In the sixth inning of that game, the Trojans' offense came alive, scoring eight runs to take the lead in what was eventually a 13-9 win.

It was that game, many in the Trojans' dugout believe, that set the tone for what has become a trend: North Hall falls behind early in games, only to come storming back to win the game. Eight times the Trojans have trailed after the first inning but avoided being on the losing end.

As a result, the rally-happy Trojans find themselves very much alive in a thick region race that includes Gainesville, White County, Oconee County, Walnut Grove, Franklin County, Johnson and surging Lumpkin County.

The nerve wracking come-from-behind fashion in which North Hall plays may not be the most conventional way to win games, but the players don't seem to mind having to do it when necessary.

"If we start out from behind, we always keep our eyes on the prize, which is victory," senior catcher Mason Savage said. "We don't get down. Everyone on the team is pulling the weight, and everyone knows what we have to do. We put in great team effort and focus on attacking early and drawing first blood.

"But when we can't do that, we try to win each inning."

Trojans coach Trent Mongero believes the never-say-die mentality stems from a philosophy he tries to instill in each player.

"We have a humble, respectable approach to the game," Mongero said. "I think it's critical as a team, you have internal swagger, but external humbleness. That starts with preparation. We consistently compete in practice and in drills to push each other so we can handle the toughest game situations when they arrive.

"That's what provides us the confidence to perform under adversity."

Of course, it's one thing for a coach to preach external humbleness, but for young men to follow through on that philosophy in the face of adversity is another thing. Time and again, the Trojans have taken the high road against their competition, choosing to exude humbleness, senior second baseman Whit Bowen said.

"We're going to be humble, not show we're big and bad," Bowen said.

Added Savage: "We all know the capabilities of each player and we believe in ourselves, but we're not going to go about our business in an arrogant way."

Not only has the approach paid off, but having all players on the same page has allowed for great team chemistry, which has helped the team to jell, Mongero believes. If the Trojans were looking for excuses to fold in the competitive 8-AAA, they were there. They only had one returning pitcher with any varsity experience and needed to rely on talent coming from the JV team. On a given day, they start as many as four freshman and sophomores at a time.

But thanks to senior leadership, and the emergence of younger players, the team has overcome those question marks.

Preston Graham, in his first varsity appearance, earned the save in the White County come-from-behind win. Another freshman, utility player Andrew Smith, has become an offensive force.

"The seniors have shown tremendous leadership and taken ownership of this ball club," said Mongero of his five seniors.

"They've embraced the youthfulness and showed them the ropes. I couldn't be more proud of the character and focus they've been able to lend."

Mongero believes he has a unique team in this year's Trojans, and with the qualities they've demonstrated to this point of the season, he sees no reason why his team can't be one of the top four standing in 8-AAA by season's end, which would qualify them for a state playoff spot.

"I think in today's day and time, there's so much emphasis on individualism and personal agendas," Mongero said. "I really feel we've put the team first and I like our chances if we continue to do that.

"They've truly embraced the team concept and I'm most proud of that."

Adam Krohn is a sports writer for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesakrohn.

 



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