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Memory Lane: Jimmy Wingfield helped lead Sullivan South to state title in 1987

Bill Lane • Jul 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Jimmy Wingfield

Born: Sept. 3, 1968

Where: Kingsport

Residence: Gray

High School/Colleges: Sullivan South/Roane State, East Tennessee State

Then: Principal Carl Matherly, during a Monday morning assembly program two days after South won the 1987 Class AAA state championship, referred to Jimmy Wingfield as “Mr. Baseball.’’

That was an appropriate description of the 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior after his pitching and hitting performances in the late stages of the Rebels’ most memorable season.

In the state tournament at Nashville’s Greer Stadium, Wingfield pitched 14 innings and allowed just eight hits, two walks and no earned runs while striking out 16 batters.

South (26-12) defeated Baylor 6-0, Smyrna 8-3 and Memphis Christian Brothers 8-2. Wingfield shut out Baylor in the opener, fanning eight. Glen Cullop came on in relief of Chad Carter to beat Smyrna. Wingfield put the finishing touches on the Rebels’ state championship drive by striking out another eight against Christian Brothers.

“It was a nice way to go out,’’ Wingfield said. “Everything came together for us at the right time. Every year in youth baseball when we got to state, a Memphis team would knock us out. We finally got revenge.’’

South also won the district, region and substate championships.

Every member of the lineup — Wingfield (p), Scott Edwards (ss), Nicky Crawford (3b), Mark Harris (c), Michael Dietz (lf), Rob Coffey (rf), John Neely (cf), Brad Compton (dh), Eric Beckerink (2b) and Bill Hashe (1b) made key contributions.

“We had no superstar on the team,’’ Wingfield said. “Everybody came to the forefront down the stretch.’’

Harris slammed a two-run double in the seventh inning to tie the score and Wingfield hit a solo homer in the 10th as South beat Daniel Boone 6-5 in the Region 1 opener.

South needed an extra inning to get by Morristown West 2-1 in the region title game. Wingfield pitched the first five innings and Carter relieved to get the win. A dramatic suicide-squeeze bunt by Dietz on a high, outside pitch in a one-out, two-strike situation sent Wingfield dashing home with the winning run.

Against Knox Central in the substate, the Rebels were facing the same pitcher who’d beaten them 1-0 earlier in the season. South turned the tables with a 4-2 victory. With Hashe on second base, Wingfield stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. “I asked the good Lord, ‘Please don’t let me strike out,’ ” Wingfield said.

He blasted a walk-off homer over the left-center field fence to win the game.

South hit the ground running at Nashville.

Wingfield, who played second when not on the mound, got two hits each against Smyrna and Christian Brothers after going 0-for-3 against Baylor as the Rebels’ leadoff batter.

Wingfield insists the Rebels were on a mission and his role was merely a small part of the team chemistry. “I was an average guy surrounded by above-average people,’’ he said.

South had looked up at Sullivan Central in the regular season but found a groove when it counted.

“Early in the year, we struggled at hitting,’’ Wingfield said. “Coach (Mike) Cline was pretty upset after we lost to Sullivan East one week before the district tournament. He gave us some time off to think about it and we came back with a different attitude.’’

The Wingfield name is synonymous with baseball.

Ted Wingfield, Jimmy’s great-uncle, pitched for the Boston Red Sox against such sluggers as the New York Yankees’ Murderers Row, which included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Paul L. Wingfield, his grandfather, played for the Kingsport Cherokees in the Appalachian League. Buddy Wingfield, his father, was a standout at Sullivan High School.

Jimmy approached football with with equal exuberance. He played running back and cornerback, kicked off, returned kicks and punted.

His career scoring total — 146 points — stood as a school record for several years. He became the scoring leader with a touchdown against Sullivan North, following a block by tackle Jeff Templeton.

One game that’s stuck in his memory was a 14-7 loss to Dobyns- Bennett in a heavy downpour of rain. T.W. Peguese returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a 7-0 D-B lead. Wingfield tied the score with a TD. Peguese decided the game with a 72-yard run off a reverse.

Wingfield rushed for 1,347 career yards on 194 carries, passed for 97 and gained 447 on catches with teams that won 25 of 32 games in 1984-86. He won the Big 9 Conference scoring title in 1985 with 73 points. Wingfield was an all-conference choice twice, an All-Northeast Tennessee selection and a second-team all-state defensive back.

“We had such an outstanding group of athletes,’’ Wingfield said. “I enjoyed the camaraderie we shared. Our coaches cared more about what kind of citizens we would turn out to be than winning.

“The football conditioning we got made us more tough-minded. The physical aspect and mind-set probably helped us be a bit more aggressive on the baseball field.’’

Three generations of Wingfields own the distinction of being all-conference selections in football — grandfather Buddy in 1956 at Sullivan, son Jimmy in 1986 at South and grandson Paul in 2006 at South.

Jimmy and Paul, a linebacker, were the first father-son combination to earn all-conference honors at South. “It gave me more joy watching Paul play than any TD, base hit or pitching win that I ever got,’’ Jimmy said. “I was blessed with great parents who were always there for sports.’’

Now: Jimmy and his wife, the former Karri Albertson, have a 6-year-old son, Conner, and a 4-year-old daughter, Kamryn.

He owns Wingfield Environmental Inc., a Blountville company with 14 employees.

Bill Lane is a Times-News sports writer. E-mail him at blane@timesnews.net.

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