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Albemarle School's Simpson overcomes injury to lift Colts to NCISAA baseball championship series

The junior has battled through an injury this season

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Albemarle School's Tanner Simpson was named the Tarheel Independent Conference Player of the Year in baseball for the 2019 season. Photo taken at Knobbs Creek Park baseball field, Thursday, May 16, 2019.

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By Malcolm Shields
Sports Editor

Friday, May 17, 2019

Albemarle School's Tanner Simpson has been one of the key players that has lifted the baseball program into the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association Class 1A state championship series.

Simpson and the Colts will face Kerr-Vance Academy in the best-of-three state championship series this weekend in Henderson.

Simpson, a junior, has battled through adversity with an injury during the 2019 season.

He acknowledged that it was tough to battle through the injury.

Albemarle School head coach Jeff Simpson noted that the injury lingered from early in the season through the Easter break in late April.

Tanner had to sit out the regular-season finale against Pungo Christian Academy on April 18.

He acknowledged that the nagging leg injury is better now than what it was.

Tanner has the second-highest batting average on the team (.451) with a team-high 26 RBI.

Even with the injury, Tanner was named the Tarheel Independent Conference Player of the Year.

He has pitched as a reliever in both of Albemarle School's state playoff games.

As for what makes the team special?

“Their love to play,” Tanner said.

Tanner, who is also an infielder, mirrors the same love and dedication for the game that his teammates have.

He said that baseball became important to him when he was 8-years-old.

According to coach Simpson, his son's first sport of choice was soccer when Tanner was six or seven.

Tanner eventually gravitated to baseball and began with tee-ball.

Coach Simpson noted that Tanner's passion for baseball took off when he was named an all-star in the youth pitching machine league.

The coach added that pursuing baseball was always left up to Tanner.

Coaching duties at times gets in the way of enjoying the moment.

“I wish I could sit back and watch,” the elder Simpson said. “It's hard as a coach to watch what he is doing because you're so involved in everything else.”

Tanner noted that playing baseball on a team that his father coaches can be tough at times.

“He's a little bit harder on you than anybody else,” Tanner said. “Overall, it's another great experience.”

The coach acknowledged that he knows that Tanner doesn't always gets to hear how well that he's doing from him.

The elder Simpson is looking forward to summer baseball when he can just be a spectator.

“That's going to be a joy for me,” coach Simpson said.

The elder Simpson noted that Tanner wants to play baseball at the college level.

During the state playoffs, Tanner has pitched in relief of Cole Langley, who leads the team in innings pitched this season.

In games against Pungo Christian Academy in the quarterfinal round and Greenfield School in the semifinal in Wilson, Tanner closed out the games for the Colts.

Tanner has pitched 15 2/3 innings with 33 strikeouts this season.

His earned run average (ERA) is an impressive 0.45.

He has embraced the responsibility of pitching.

“Pressure makes diamonds,” Tanner said. “My favorite thing to do is pitch in pressure. It's your job. No one else can do it for you.”

His role as a reliever fits what is needed with Langley and Logan Dunn being starting pitchers for the Colts.

“We pretty much know that we can shut the door,” coach Simpson said of Tanner as a relief pitcher. “That's a big plus.”

Tanner believes that the Colts can play in close games against Kerr-Vance this weekend.

“I believe in our boys,” Tanner said. “We can pull it off.”

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