Andy, UMS-Wright series starts today

Published 12:04 am Friday, April 19, 2013

Staying focused for seven innings and 21 outs is the name of the game for Andalusia as it hosts sixth-ranked UMS-Wright in the first round of the Class 4A state baseball playoffs today, weather permitting.

Andalusia and UMS-Wright will meet for the second time this season in the best-of-three series. AHS lost to UMS 5-4 in the Best of the Best Tournament at Troy University in the March contest.

AHS coach Jonathan Rasberry said the team knows what to do to come out successful over the visiting Bulldogs.

“The good thing is that we have played them this year,” Rasberry said. “Even though we lost to them 5-4, we had plenty of opportunities in that game. We understand exactly from that ball game what we need to do to be successful.”

The teams will play two games today at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. If there is a split, an if-necessary game will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. Due to the possibility of bad weather coming through the area today, and if the games are delayed, then the best-of-three series will start on Saturday with games at noon and 2:30 p.m., followed by the if-necessary game on Monday night.

UMS-Wright is a storied baseball program in Mobile, where it has won several state championships in Class 4A and 5A. UMS won back-to-back championships in 2010-11, and finished in the state semifinals in 2012.

“I know they’re a very, very quality opponent,” Rasberry said. “They’re one of the top 4A teams this year, as well as in the past. They’ve played every single level, 1-6A.”

Andalusia enters today’s two games with a 28-8-1 overall record. UMS-Wright is 22-9.

AHS is also riding a 10-game win streak going into the playoffs. UMS-Wright had a nine-game win streak before falling to Thomasville in its final area series.

Rasberry said his Bulldogs are primarily focusing on themselves.

“We’ve got to play defense and throw strikes, and put the baseball in play and execute,” he said. “I am more focused on ourselves than I am UMS-Wright, even though they are a quality opponent and a well-coached baseball team, as they are every year. I definitely think we need to concentrate on ourselves and what we can control. If we can do that, then we’ll be fine.”

When asked about keys besides making routine plays, playing good defense and having solid pitching, Rasberry said to not allow “crooked numbers.”

“If we do get in a bind, and say we get down and they get hot, we’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding,” he said.

Getting out to a good lead and not relaxing are also key today, Rasberry said.

“I think it’s good to get a good lead,” the coach said. “Sometimes it can make you relax. Sometimes you don’t need to relax. I’ve seen us relax a little too much at times. If we can play each inning like a 0-0 or a 1-0 ball game, then I think we’ll be fine and stay focused.”

Andalusia is going to have to bring its “A-game” today in order to beat UMS-Wright, Rasberry said.

“That’s something we kind of preach, is seven innings and 21 outs,” he said. “We’ve got to stay focused for seven innings and 21 outs for the ball game. If we’re up in the last inning, we’ve got to learn how to finish. I think we’re learning how to do that.”

The only team standing in Andalusia’s way of winning a state championship is UMS-Wright, the coach said.

“I don’t think the kids think of it as a first-round or second round thing,” Rasberry said. “I just think we’ve got to approach it like there’s no pressure on us. I think the first round is very important and key to get us going. But, I feel like if we win the first round, it’s going to be just as tough as a fourth round. We’re essentially playing a fourth-round type opponent in the first round. If we do what we need to do, and lucky enough to get to the second round, our goal is the same thing; our goal is to win the state championship. I think we’re up to the task and excited to play a good baseball team. We know it’s going to be an exciting baseball game, we’re looking forward to the battle.”

Rasberry thanked the City of Andalusia for its help in maintaining the baseball field, and the parents and administration for their support this season.