“It is about time that we got back in the playoffs,” Stephens said. “Two years, so everybody was excited that we got into the playoffs and it didn’t turn out like we wanted it to. This year, our first goal was to win the county; we came up short on that. Our next goal was to be area champs and we fell short of that. Our main was goal was to make the playoffs and that is what we did. Once you get into the playoffs anything can happen and we just want to give ourselves a chance. This bunch has worked their tails off. Day in and day out they bust their tails and it couldn’t happen to a better bunch of kids. Hopefully, we can extend the season until next weekend and give us another chance.”
Oneonta enters the postseason with a 19-12 record. The scouting report on the Redskins says that they are young, but fundamentally sound. Stephens believes that his team will have to play mistake-free ball to have a chance.
“We are going to Oneonta,” Stephens said. “They are young, they have three seniors, but they are a well coached. They do the fundamentals right, they don’t beat themselves defensively and they hit the ball. Like I said, we are going to have to beat them, because they are not going to beat themselves. We are going to have to make all the little plays. We got to make the plays, we got to sacrifice, we have to get folks over, and we got to hit the ball when we have runners in scoring position. If we can do that it should be a very competitive series.”
The Lions are treating this game like a regular game as far as their routine.
“We are going to treat it like a normal game with higher stakes,” Stephens said. “We are going to get out of school at 11. We are going to meet at the baseball field and go over some stuff. At 11:30, we are going to ride to Pell City and eat at Pell City Steak House. We are going to treat them to a good meal and from there we are going to ease on up to Oneonta. We are going to let them relax a little bit, get in the cage, get our eye on the ball. After an hour and a half of that, we are going to relax some more then get our uniform on, take infield and get ready to play. We want them focused, but loose at the same time. The main thing is let them have fun. As long as they are having fun they play better.”
Blake Haynie is one of three Lions that has postseason experience. Haynie believes that if the Lions are going to make a run they are going to have to make the routine plays.
“It is a good feeling,” Haynie said. “We didn’t have the year that we waned to have, but we had a winning year. It feels good to be in the playoffs. We have to cut down on the mistakes and made the little plays. I want to go far in the playoffs. This is my last go at it and I am glad that we are in it. I would like the third or fourth round. I really want to go to state this year. To be the best you have to beat the best. That is what our football coach always preaches to us and it is true. It is good that we are in the playoffs, but I am not satisfied. I want to go as far as we can.”
Clay Upchurch said Munford has been a little more focused this week in practice.
“It is a different feel and it a lot more pressure on you,” Upchurch said. “It is a big adrenaline rush and hoping to go deeper and deeper it is nothing like it. The past few practice we have been focused and not playing around. We have been concentrating on what we need to get done.”
Stephens said that his seniors have done an amazing job on the diamond and as leaders in the clubhouse.
“I got some great seniors,” Stephens said. “They are some excellent leaders. I have two that I would probably say that are in the top 10 in battings. Clay Upchurch is batting over .600. Blake Haynie is batting .580. I have never had anyone on my team bat that high. As a team we are batting right at .400. We got some senior leadership, they work hard and they keep the kids in line. We have Michael James in there also. He has been good at the plate and we want it to end on a good note, because this is a very special bunch. We are going to miss them when they are gone. They want it bad, they have worked hard for it and they deserve it.”
Playing mistake-free baseball, getting timely hits and throwing strikes are some of things that the Lions will have to do if they are going to advance.
“Our key to winning is our pitchers throwing strikes and our defense,” Stephens said. “If our pitchers can throw strikes and let them hit the ball and let us play defense behind them then our chances of winning are a lot greater. We are going to hit the ball. I am confident about us hitting the ball, but our defense has let us down in the past. If we play good defense behind the pitchers and they throw strikes I think we can come out on top. We got to make the fundamental plays. We have to field the bunt and we have field ground balls. We have to make the routine plays as well as the ESPN Top 10 plays. You have to make two or three those. You have to play the game of baseball like it is suppose to be played, if you do that you can win.”