Panthers face Briarwood in quarterfinals

Matt WestMatt West

By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent

Briarwood Christian High’s baseball team may not be ranked by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, but don’t let that fool you.

“They’ve been overlooked because they play in Birmingham, and it’s tough to win there,” Southside coach Blake Bone said. “They’ve got a quality team that can sneak up and bite you.”

That is what happened last weekend, when the Lions advanced by sweeping seventh-ranked Homewood with a pair of huge pitching performances. Ethan Simmons set the tone by notching a four-hitter in a 14-1 victory. In the nightcap, Jake Bracewell tossed a seven-hitter in a 5-2 win.

Those two pitchers worry Bone.

“They both have very good arms,” he said. “We certainly have to be prepared for them.”

The Panthers learned something about that last weekend, when unranked Arab came in and won Game 1. 

Southside rebounded with a 7-0 victory before winning 3-1 in the deciding Game 3.

“We’ve been in some tough situations, but knowing we came back and won after that will help us down the road, if we see it again,” Bone said. 

Briarwood was ranked earlier in the year, but coach Steve Renfroe doesn’t let little things like rankings bother him.

“We just want to show up and play,” he said. “We play a lot of 6A schools and some very good 5A schools. If we improve each week, I’m happy.”

This will be Southside’s first road series of the 2014 playoffs.

“It may be good to have some road games,” Bone said. “So much happens when you’re playing at home that when you go on the road, you can sometimes loosen up a bit. We’ve been a pretty good road team this year, so this might just be beneficial.”

Renfroe said that his team will have to play well to have a chance.

“We know they’re a baseball school,” he said. “It seems like they’re there (in the playoff picture) every year. I’ve heard they’ve got a lot of great pitching, and it’s obvious by their record that they’re very legit. 

They’ll be bringing some great baseball players, and we’re excited about the chance to play them.”

The teams will play at doubleheader today (May 2) starting a 5 p.m., with an if-necessary Game 3 scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. 

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