When Joel Gafford walked onto Legion Field Tuesday night, he was in unfamiliar territory, as he was, for the first time, the opponent of New Albany. In his first regular season game as a head coach, the 2003 NAHS graduate and his Ripley Tiger squad opened their 2011 campaign falling to the team he once played and worked for.
Tyler Basil struck out seven in five innings of work en route to the 5-1 victory for the Bulldogs. New Albany went ahead 5-0 before Ripley broke the no-hitter with a double by Austin Hamilton in the fifth. The Tigers scored their lone run off an error in the seventh, and the ‘Dawgs held on for their home opening win.
“It’s great to always come back home, even more exciting to come back here for my first game,” Gafford said. “I know these guys, Coach Walker and the players, and obviously I wish we had a different outcome, but that’s baseball.”
“I can already tell the change in attitude of that program and the success that he’s going to bring to them is imminent,” NAHS Head Coach John Walker added. “Just like with any other program, you’re going to have some growing pains in your first year, and they’re going to have to get used to how he does things. He’s always going to pose a challenge to us because he’s a good coach.”
New Albany scored three runs in the first inning off three-straight hits, including an RBI double by Mason Maxey. The Bulldogs added two more runs in the fourth, first off a single by Joshua Googe, who later scored on an error.
Googe went in for relief of Basil, allowing Ripley’s lone run and striking out three batters.
“It’s a good win; home opener versus a good team,” Walker said. “We didn’t have our best game, but we were fortunate to get the win. We had two pitchers that battled, neither were at their very best, but they kept us in it and we did enough offensively to get the runs that we needed to win.”
New Albany will next be in action on Saturday, playing at Hernando. Game time is set for 1 p.m.