By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
It was an outstanding regular season for Etowah County high school baseball teams, as six of the 10 teams qualified for the playoffs. Of those six, three finished the year ranked in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s top 10. Also, three teams earned the right to host a first-round series.
The postseason starts today (April 19), with a doubleheader in each series. Any series that requires a third game will play again Saturday. As is usual this time of year, rain could wreak havoc on all series, however.
Here’s a look at this week’s games involving Etowah County teams.
Scottsboro at No. 5 Southside
Friday 5 p.m.; Saturday 2 p.m.
After a couple of years knocking on the door, Southside is more than ready to be admitted into the championship chambers.
Last season, the Panthers finished as 5A runners-up and made it to the state semifinals in 2011.
“I honestly don’t know a lot about Scottsboro,” Southside coach Blake Bone said. “We don’t worry much about the other team anyway. We focus on ourselves and playing our game to the best of our abilities.
“If we incorporate our plans and play the best we can, we are successful.”
Bone noted that pitching has been the mainstay of this year’s squad.
“We’ve got a lot of older pitchers with a lot of game experience,” he said. “They’ve been a huge part of our success. Even the games we lost, we were competitive because of our pitching – and defense. The defense has been very steady.”
No. 7 Etowah at Arab
Friday 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m.
Etowah coach Larry Foster expects a good series, as he describes both teams as very much alike.
Foster went down the list of assets and both squads are indeed quite similar.
“They’ve got two real good pitchers and we have two,” Foster said. “We’ve got five or six really good hitters and they’ve got several. Both teams play good defense and both get hits when they need them.”
Foster wouldn’t say which of his top two pitchers he would go with in Game 1, saying that it will come down to a game-time decision between Colby Dunn and Josh Bobo.
“I’m not sure if (Arab) has a true No. 1 pitcher,” Foster said. “I think they’re about like us and their top two are fairly even with each other.”
In which case, a third game could be in the making. Foster said that if that happens, Nick Humphrey will toe the rubber for the Blue Devils.
“(Humphrey) has been very consistent as our No. 3 pitcher,” Foster said. “I’m not sure who they would throw, but if we get as far as a third game, I expect a real hooting contest.”
Sardis at No. 6 Alexandria
Friday 5 p.m.; Saturday noon
The system didn’t do Sardis any favors, putting the Lions in a first-round matchup against the eighth-ranked Valley Cubs.
“(Alexandria) is probably in the top two or so in the North this year,” Sardis coach Clay Wright said. “They are very worthy of their ranking and I think they have the potential to go all the way. But we want to stop those thoughts early.”
Wright does think his team is currently playing the best it has all season.
“I think the big thing is that the weather finally got warm,” Wright said. “The pitchers are getting to throw enough to get their arms loose, our defense is better and I think the ball is maybe flying a little better than it was early.
“I know, though, that everyone else is in the same situation, so it’s not really anything we can use to our advantage, except going out and playing our best.
“It wouldn’t be the first time the underdog won.”
Wright hasn’t had a chance to watch Alexandria in person, but said that everyone who has see the Valley Cubs in action has come away impressed.
White Plains at Glencoe
Friday 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 2 p.m.
Because of a low number of games and practices during the past two weeks, Glencoe coach Charlie Robertson isn’t too sure what to expect in this series.
But up until the breaks, the Glencoe coach was very happy with his team.
“We were doing very well in all aspects of the game,” Robertson said. “Maybe we won’t be hurt by the lack of practice.”
The Yellow Jackets got a little work in Monday, in a 3-2 loss to Sardis in the Etowah County Schools Tournament semifinals.
“Of the pitchers who will get a chance this weekend (against White Plains), I let them throw 24-27 pitches each. They all did well.”
Having the games at Glencoe will help the Yellow Jackets, too.
“(White Plains’) field is very small,” Robertson said. “Ours is quite a bit bigger, so they can’t hit as many home runs. And we’re playing three good outfielders who can chase the ball down.”
West End at No. 1 Section
Friday 5 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m.
The Patriots may have the worst draw of any team around, having to visit top-ranked Section.
But don’t expect coach Joe Payne to change anything because of the opponent.
“We’ll go with the same lineup and same pitching rotation we have all year,” he said. “If we were to try and change plans now, we might upset our whole team.”
Payne described West End’s efforts as very streaky.
“We’ll play well one game, then go out and act like we’ve never seen a baseball the next game,” he said. “Some of it is on account of the weather. It’s tough to establish a rhythm when you can’t play very often.”
As has been the case all season, the Patriots will try and manufacture runs.
That starts with leadoff hitter Caleb Mayo, who is batting around .500. Ryan Mashburn and Ty Browning, followed by Austin Russell, get a lot of chances for RBI.
“We’re going to go up there and try our best to beat them,” Payne said. “We’ll have to wait and see if we’re able to. If we play any of our bad games, it could be a short series.”
Fyffe at No. 7 Westbrook
Friday 4:30 p.m.; Saturday noon
Westbrook has become a major player in Class 2A baseball in recent years, as the Warriors have made a habit of advancing into at least the second round.
“These guys don’t do anything exceptional,” coach Matt Kennedy said. “They play well together as a team, and that helps because anyone can be the hero on any day.”
Westbrook starts six seniors who have played in a lot of playoff games.
Kennedy also has the luxury of having five pitchers, all of whom he trusts with the ball.
“All five of them have been stable pitchers,” he said. “We’ve won most of our games this year with pitching and defense. We can manage to scratch out a run here and there, but we’re not going to go out and hammer the ball over the fence a lot.”