By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent
It’s on to the second round of the Class 5A state baseball playoffs for Southside and this week’s worthy opponent is Arab.
The best-of-three series begins with a doubleheader on Friday starting at 5 p.m., with an if-necessary Game 3 on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Knights come in after winning a bruising three-game battle against Etowah.
“Last year, Etowah beat us two out of three,” Arab coach Karl Amonite said. “This year when it got to game three, we responded with our backs against the wall against a quality opponent. That makes me feel good about our team.”
Meanwhile, Southside was having its way against Scottsboro, allowing the Wildcats only two hits and three base runners in two games.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing and keep executing,” Panthers coach Blake Bone said. “If we do that, we’ve got a chance to win and advance.”
On paper, Arab sounds a bit like Southside, with good pitching, good hitting and solid defense.
“It’ll be a tough battle for us,” Bone said. “(Arab) plays hard and is scrappy. They do the little things it takes to be a quality team.”
Amonite said, “When we’re successful, we play all three phases of the game well. Right now, that’s the case. Our pitchers, our bats and our defense are at the top of their games.”
Meeting goals is a big part of any sport, and at this time of the year, that list of goals has grown steadily shorter and is now a one-game-at-a-time goal.
“We play like each game is our last,” Amonite said. “Right now, our next goal is to beat Southside. If we can do that, we’ll be a little closer to our ultimate goal.”
That is one area where Southside has an advantage.
The Panthers have gone deep into the playoffs several times, while Arab hasn’t had the luck to get past the first round.
“They’re well seasoned in the postseason,” Amonite said. “They’ve been there, done that and that helps a lot when the postseason pressure cooker is on.
“As we get closer to the final goal, the teams get increasingly tougher. I expect Southside to be as good, if not better, than Etowah.”