Fortunately for the Fayetteville Wolves, they are performing well in both aspects of the game right now. Jeremy Melton and Matthew Williams shut down Loachapoka’s offense last week to help the Wolves advance to the third round of the baseball playoffs for the first time in about 15 years. In addition to pitching well the entire lineup is hitting well as they enter the quarterfinal round against J.U. Blacksher this weekend.
Fayetteville head coach Morris Phillips said the team has been hitting well and he hopes they continue to this weekend.
“The team went down (to Loachapoka) and did exactly what we wanted them to do,” Phillips said. “We had Justin Ricks, who’s swinging a hot bat right now, he hit two homers. Jeremy Melton hit another homer. But we also had the little hits. Sometimes a base hit is a lot better than a long ball. We swung the bat very well down there. It was nice.”
Melton and Ricks have been leaders offensively and defensively this season and they’ve only gotten better after the playoffs started.
“Jeremy has been swinging a very good bat for us,” Phillips said. “I think he’s batting over .400 on the year and has five homers or so. He leads the team in RBIs. I hope he can keep his bat going as well. Pitching also, Melton is our number one guy right now. A lefty. What makes him our number one guy is being a lefty.
“Justin Ricks is a guy we depend a lot on offensively and defensively. Offensively, he’s come along hitting the ball. He’s batting close to .400 this year. He has a couple of homers and everything. But defensively he’s a good catcher. It’s hard to run on him. He’s got a great arm.
Melton and Ricks are two of the players leading the way at the plate this year, but Phillips and both players were quick to point out the whole team has been playing well as they’ve advanced deeper into the playoffs.
“Our eight and nine hitters, Andrew Scott and Brett Autrey, those two have come through for us with hits when we needed them,” Phillips said.
“I think Brett Autrey has the third or fourth highest batting average on the team. He has 22 or 23 RBIs on the season and that’s your nine-hole hitter. That’s a lot of RBIs for a nine-hole hitter. He and Andrew make contact. They keep us in the game a lot of times.”
Melton said he and his teammates have played better since the playoffs started.
“We hit decent all year, but I think we stepped it up in the playoffs a little bit,” Melton said. “The nine hitter is in the top three in RBIs. That’s pretty amazing. That’s a good number nine hitter. We’ve had Justin Ricks step up and hit the ball good the last series.”
Junior Andrew Scott said while the team is performing well, they still have room for improvement.
“You can always get better,” Scott said. “We are playing pretty good, but we need to hit more and lose the errors and stuff.”
Autrey said the series against Loachapoka proved the Wolves could battle adversity and come out on top.
“Everything just came together,” Autrey said of the series. “We got down in the beginning of the second game and just bounced back. We came through adversity. We just kept working, kept working, kept working, kept hitting, kept hitting, kept hitting.”
Autrey lauded the play of Fayetteville’s pitchers against Loachapoka. He said the defense works harder when the pitchers are doing well.
“Melton did great the first game and Matthew did great the second game,” he said. “I guess when they work as hard as they do on the mound, it makes everybody out there work harder. It happened against Wadley. Melton pitched a great game and we let him down. We just can’t do that anymore. That’s a bad feeling it leaves on you.”
As the Wolves prepare to face J.U. Blacksher on Friday in the third round, the players are excited to be facing a team they haven’t heard much about.
“Coach has been telling us that they have a great defense,” Ricks said Tuesday. “We’ll have to hit the ball good, get on base and keep playing defense like we have.”
Melton said he’s looking forward to facing a team he doesn’t get to play against during the regular season.
“They should be good,” Melton said. “It should be a lot more competition than Loachapoka and Wadley. But I’ve never played against them before, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve wanted to play someone who’s not real close to here, I’ve never really heard of before. I’ve seen their schedule and stuff and they’ve played some tougher schools. Hopefully we can do good and get by them. It’ll be a lot tougher either way.”