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Wildcats ‘excited’ about playoffs

There is only one word that can describe how Florala baseball coach Stan Gooden and his team feels about going to the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs Friday night to play the defending state champions — excited.

“The majority of the guys haven’t been able to go to the playoffs in anything because most of, if not all of the guys that play baseball, play football and basketball as well,” Gooden said. “This is the first opportunity in anything to go to the playoffs. So, we’re just going to enjoy it and do our best.”

The Wildcats (12-19) will travel to play Brantley in a best-out-of-three games, starting at 5 p.m. A game will be played on Saturday if both teams get one win each.

“Brantley is very fundamentally sound and their pitchers throw strikes,” Gooden said. “They do everything they have to do to win ball games. They don’t send one guy up to pitch and sit everybody down — it’s a total team effort on their part.”

As far as what Florala needs to do well Friday night in order to win, Gooden said the team has to eliminate mistakes.

“Our pitchers have to throw strikes,” he said. “They’re going to hit the ball and we can’t give them five or six free passes on the bases. We can’t hit batters and we’ve got to make the routine plays and limit our errors mentally and physically. We’ve got to get base runners on and we’ll work runs across if we can.”

If there is one thing that Gooden is concerned about Friday night, it’s what will happen if his team makes mistakes early.

“One thing I’m concerned and what really hampered us at the beginning of the year is that if we make a mistake, we tend to hang our heads and pretty much fold up,” he said. “We’ve gotten better about that battling back and fighting back to find ways to get back in ball games.”

Despite what may happen Friday night, Gooden said that this season has been a good one and that he has seen a lot of improvement in his players.

“It’s been a fun year,” he said. “The kids have really improved a lot. That’s what we look for to have some improvement. We’re still just building the program and laying the foundation. The second year was a good solid working year on their part as far as improving goes and getting better.”

Admission to Friday night’s games is $8 per person.

“We’re going to make the most of it with the opportunity that’s in front of us,” Gooden said. “We’ll try to represent Florala the best we can.”