“From tryouts I could tell, they had pretty good arms, could all hit the ball fairly well at the beginning of the season,” said assistant coach Whit Mitchell, who is in his first year as a coach at Fayetteville. “We worked on that a lot, hitting. I thought we would at least win area and I thought we’d make it through the first and second round for sure.”
Head coach Morris Phillips agreed with his assistant.
“We started telling them early, we’ve got a really good shot of making some noise in 1A baseball,” he said Monday. “We thought we had it and it’s panned out for us.”
It’s panned out about as well as any season can. The Wolves were ranked in the sportswriters’ poll for most of the season and lost just two games to other 1A teams. Today they’ll play Holy Spirit at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for the chance to advance to the AHSAA Class 1A championship series. Fayetteville (20-9) defeated J.U. Blacksher a week ago to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1988. The Titans (19-9) beat Brantley last week to extend their season by at least another week.
The two teams enter the game nearly even in statistics. They’ve both had strong hitting and pitching throughout the playoffs. And they’ve backed up their pitchers with a solid defense.
Devin Young and Alex Harrison are two pitchers likely to see time on the mound for Holy Spirit today. Young is 9-2 on the hill this season. The senior right-handed pitcher won the first game against Brantley in the third round a week ago. Harrison is 3-1 on the season and was the winning pitcher for the second game. He also had a home run in the second game against Brantley. Junior catcher Christopher David had a home run and a triple in the third round series. The Titans scored 13 runs in the series and have scored 67 runs in the playoffs.
Fayetteville counters with numbers that are very similar. Jeremy Melton and Matthew Williams have been the go-to pitchers. Both have more than 20 strikeouts in the playoffs. Melton had two home runs in the series against J.U. Blacksher last week. The Wolves have scored 71 runs in the postseason.
If both teams continue their hot hitting and strong pitching today, errors could be the deciding factor.
“Whoever makes the least amount of errors will win,” Mitchell said.
Senior first baseman Hunter Scott said the team isn’t taking Holy Spirit lightly. At the same time, Scott believes his team can get the win if they play like they’re capable of playing.
“They’re going to be real good,” Scott said of the Titans. “They’re going to make the small plays. They’re going to just play baseball. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to show up and play baseball. And we’ll come out on top if we play our game.”
The Wolves didn’t show any signs of nervousness during practice at the start of the week. Williams said he got over the nervousness in the first three rounds.
“I think the first few rounds got all of the nervousness out of me,” he said “So this round will just be a very important game, but it’s not nerve-wracking. It’s more anticipation.”
Senior Alan Ricks is pretty sure he’ll be feeling a little nervous by game time today.
“I’m not really nervous until right before the game,” he said Monday. “I think all week I’m trying to get pumped up for it; I’m trying to not let it get in my head. Right before the game is when it really hits me.”
There wasn’t much nervousness in the third round. The Wolves scored early and often against the Bulldogs. And it’s hard to be nervous when winning and having fun.
“We always tell each other just to have fun and that’s what really drove us this season,” Scott said. “We’ve had games where we’ve gotten behind and we’d get real stressed, so we tell each other just to calm down and have fun. And that’s what’s helped us get here.”
The first game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. with the second to be played at 6 p.m.