“For us, being in the second round is where we thought we would be this year,” Pell City head coach Andrew Tarver said. ”After Oxford swept us on March 23, the last time we played them, our thing after the game (was) if we wanted another chance at them, we have to make it to the second round.
“If we do our job and they do their job, we will meet up in the second round. That is what our kids have been fighting for – the rematch with Oxford.”
The Panthers dropped all three regular season games to Oxford in low scoring affairs. Pell City fell to Oxford 2-1 on March 20. Three days later the Panthers dropped both games on the road, 3-0 and 4-2.
“We know it is going to be some close games and we are going to have to produce some runs,” Tarver said. “Our magic number is four. We feel like if we get four runs, we have a chance to win in any game that we play against them.”
Pell City (29-15) overcame a six-run deficit to defeat Clay-Chalkville 12-9 and advance to the second round of the playoffs.
“Both of our guys threw on Friday,” Tarver said. “We didn’t know what to expect out there on Saturday, but our guys came thr
ough. They persevered through some agony they had from being tired in the first game. Were we beat at 6-0, no. Our guys know once we get a spark we will score in bunches and that is what they did.”
“Every pitch matters,” senior Casey Seals said. “Being a catcher, you can’t really slack off that much and you have to stay focused every single pitch of every single at bat. One passed ball can mean the difference of a guy on second going to third. If the next guy hits a single, the runner from third base scores. That could be the game right there. You have to block up every ball, stay focused and call the right pitches.”
Senior outfielder and Arkansas-Pine Bluff commitment Dylon Calhoun said the Panthers want to get the second round monkey off their backs.
“It is big,” Calhoun said. “We want to go to the third round really bad and beating Oxford to get there would make it even better.”
Sam Grimes said the Panthers received extra motivation after reading some of the Cougars’ comments going into their first round series.
“In the newspaper they were talking about the dog piling we did last year and they were going to come ready,” Grimes said. “They did come ready, but we were able to pull it off. It felt better than last year.”
Landon Smith earned the win in the decisive game against Clay-Chalkville last weekend. He said getting two road wins against one of the top teams in the state has built the Panthers’ confidence.
“Each win builds confidence,” Smith said. “We want them and we want them bad. We are going in there focused on beating them.”
The Yellow Jackets’ hurlers led them past Hewitt-Trussville in the round. In opening game of the season, Tucker Simpson threw a perfect game. Jackson Stephens led Oxford to a 4-1 win in the second game.
“They have the guys that throw 92 miles per hour,” Tarver said. “We don’t see that everyday, so it is hard to simulate that in practice. We just have to cut down on the strikeouts. We have to get a dink hit here or there. We have to get a big two-out hit. We are going to have to bunt a guy or two in just to get four runs on their pitching staff.
“I think the last time Tucker Simpson and Jackson Stephens struck out over 10 guys per game. That is going to be one of our focuses, putting the ball in play and making those guys make the routine plays.”