“It is sweet to be back here,” Fayetteville head coach Morris Phillips said. “To know that there are 66 or 67 teams in 1A baseball and that it has come down to four teams. To know that your are one of those four teams is nice.”
No. 8 St. Luke’s (18-2) advanced to the semifinals by sweeping Maplesville 16-11 and 11-5 last Friday. The Wildcats are very young as their roster consists of 10 freshman, eight sophomores, two seventh graders and an eighth grader.
“This team that we are playing is a fairly young team, but at the same time they are in the same spot that we are in,” Phillips said. “They are one of the top four teams left in the state and they have worked hard to get here. You can’t take them for granted. This team likes to hit, that is one of their strengths. From everyone I have talked to their 1 through 9 guys put the ball in play, so we have to make plays. It is going to be fun and interesting series. Hopefully we can come out on top with it.”
The second-ranked Wolves (26-5) battled to sweep Sweet Water 10-7 and 5-2. It wasn’t the first time these teams matched up in the playoffs.
In the late 1980s the teams took turns beating each other on their way to winning the state championship.
“I knew Sweet Water was going to be a challenge for us,” Phillips said. “I know that people that weren’t at the game and just read it in the paper or really don’t know the history of the two schools. Last time Fayetteville went to the state championship game they got put out by Sweet Water in 1989. The year before that when Fayetteville won the state championship they beat Sweet Water along the way to get there. Scheduling this year was a lot of fun. We tried to up our schedule this year. We played some very good 1A teams along with some bigger schools. Hopefully that will pay off for us. As far as playing Sweet Water in the early round, I think it is a good thing. It helps boost your confidence that we beat a very good team. It helps the guys realize that you are something special, you do have a good team.”
There is a lot of excitement in the Fayetteville community about the Wolves being in the semifinals of the AHSAA Class 1A playoffs. On Wednesday afternoon there were already 30 lawn chairs connected to the fence so they can get a front row seat.
“Playing at home is nice,” Phillips said. “It is nice to have the crowd. It is just nice to be on your home field, where you are so much more comfortable. Like I said last week, it takes us forever to get going and woken up.”
One of the players Phillips was proud of after last week’s game was leftfielder JT Townsend. In a game where runs, scoring and hits were limited, Townsend was able to get on base and manufacture a run for the Wolves.
“In the second game, he set the tone for us when he hits the triple and winds up scoring for us on an error, Phillips said. “He really set it up for us and that was one of those game-changing plays that happen for us in our favor. He started all of the hitting. I am very proud of him.”
One of the reasons the Wolves came out on top against Sweet Water is because they limited their errors. The Wolves only committed three in the game; two of them came in the first game of the series.
“I was very proud of the way we played defensively. Phillips said. “We played pretty good, we didn’t make a lot of mistakes and that is key. You can’t win games by making a lot of mistakes. If you make a lot of mistakes most likely you are going to be on the losing end. I am proud of our guys for that. (Jeremy) Melton and (Zach McGrady) pitched two great games for us. I just hope they can keep it up.”
The first pitch is set for 2 p.m.
Contact LaVonte Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.