After three years as a Wildcat assistant, Carter was officially hired Wednesday as Triplett’s successor.
“I always said I would get out of baseball at Polk if they had a guy that could take over who was a good baseball man,” Triplett stated earlier this month when talking about his retirement.
“For Polk County baseball this is the guy who will do what needs to be done to keep the success we’ve had going,” he commented Wednesday.
“I’m excited to get this chance,” the new head coach proclaimed. “This program has had a tremendous turnaround the last several years thanks to coach Triplett, and I looking forward to continuing sub-state and state tournament appearances as a regular part of what we are doing over here.”
Having played in a pair of state Final 4s while at McMinn Central under present Walker Valley coach Joe Shamblin, Carter also took the diamond for Chattanooga State for a couple of years before finishing his teaching degree at UT-Chattanooga.
“When coach Triplett called a few years ago about coming to Polk I didn’t know him,” Carter explained. “I was fresh out of school and he told me we had a chance to be a part of something special. He was right.”
“A lot of people have concentrated on the group we’ve just graduated (Tennessee signee Jared Allen, plus Cleveland State signees Michael Hargrove and Tyler Lee), but we had some guys on the bench who could have been playing at other schools. They are hungry to get their chance to show what they can do.”
With starters like Alex Akins, Duncan Coffey, Collin Wimberley, Justin Brown and others returning, the cupboard isn’t bare in Benton.
“He (Carter) has paid his dues here for the last three years. He has worked the summer program. He takes pride in the facilities and the program,” Triplett assessed. “He and coach (Matt) Allen will do a good job of keeping the program going in the right direction.”
Allen, who was a standout player for the Wildcats just a few years ago, will continue as an assistant for the Big Red, while Carter doesn’t plan to let Triplett leave the program completely.
“I’m going to be working with the pitchers during the offseason and some during the season as well,” explained Triplett, who retired with an overall record of 306-196-1. “I still plan to have time to watch my daughter (Lydia) play softball but there will be times I’ll be in the dugout during games as well.”
“Pitching is coach Triplett’s favorite part of the game, so if we can keep him around to work with our guys in December, January and February, then help out some during the season, that will help us tremendously,” the new coach declared.
“Coach Allen knows the game so well and how to teach the little things about infielding and catching. He’s invaluable,” Carter added. “Coach Triplett is more than a mentor to me, he’s a friend. We’ll give him plenty of time to watch Lydia play golf and softball but keeping the three of us working together will help continue what we’ve got going here.”
This year Polk County struggled some during the regular season but a runner-up finish in the District 5-AA Tournament helped them claim their second straight Region 3-AA title. A victory over Livingston Academy in the sectional game gave the Wildcats their first TSSAA state tournament berth in 25 years.
The Wildcats had four 20-win seasons, plus a 19- and an 18-win record, in Triplett’s seven seasons at the helm in his second time around at his alma mater.
Taking over the top spot from your boss and then having him still around is sometimes a tough transition, but Carter has gotten the new relationship off on the right foot.
“Four hours after he was hired he had already sent me to drag the grass clippings off the field from where he had mowed earlier in the day,” Triplett joked. “He’s the right man for the job. I’m glad he’s getting this opportunity.”