Bobcats focused, ready for T.R. Miller

Published 12:01 am Friday, April 25, 2014

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Opp’s Walker Messer pitches during an earlier game this season. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Opp’s focus this week has centered on one team and one team only — T.R. Miller.

The third-ranked Bobcats will travel today to play the Tigers in the second round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 3A state baseball playoffs.

Last Saturday, OHS swept Bayside Academy, while it took TRM three games to down Excel.

Tonight’s games will mark the second time the Bobcats and Tigers have squared off this season, and the third straight year in which they’ve played each other. OHS played TRM in the first round in 2012 and two years in a row during its spring break tournament.

The Bobcats beat the Tigers by the 10-run rule in an earlier contest this year.

Already thinking they can do it again can be dangerous, OHS senior Holt Hall said.

“We still have to play the game because we beat them the last time,” Hall said. “We can’t do things and think about that.”

OHS coach Michael Cassady said TRM coach Jim Hart has done a great job with his baseball teams.

“He’s coached a lot of good baseball teams there,” Cassady said. “He does an outstanding job with the baseball team and that program.”

Pitching wise, TRM is led by Kyle Davis, who throws in the upper 80s and has compiled a 137 earned run average (ERA) in 11 appearances and 46 innings pitched. Behind Davis are lefty Tripp Floyd (.95 ERA, 5-1) and Hunter Brittain (.58 ERA).

The Tigers are pretty good out in the field, too, Cassady said.

If Davis isn’t pitching, then he’s either playing catcher or at third base, the coach said.

Playing at shortstop is eighth-grader Drew Williamson, who can throw the ball well in space.

Behind the plate, T.R. Miller’s Jones Manning and Zac Griffin are the top two hitters in a class with several .300 or better batting averages. Manning sits at .374, while Griffin is at .402.

Cassady said Brittain (.348 BA) is hot right now and is hitting the ball well.

“They do a lot of things offensively,” Cassady said. “They bunt, steal and hit and run, and put pressure on your defense. They’ve got a lot of fast runners, a lot of courtesy runners. There’s a reason why they’re in the second round.”

At this stage, it’s how a team plays that will determine whether it will advance or go home, the coach said.

“From here on out, anybody that’s in the playoffs you’re going to play a good team,” he said. “Anybody can get beat on any given day. I really believe that. Two years ago, I thought we had the best team when we went down there to play Bayside, and we lost both of them. The breaks didn’t go our way. We didn’t get hits when we needed to, and throw strikes when we needed to.”

In this case, prior playing experience in this round does help. Five of Opp’s 10 seniors played in the second-round loss to Bayside two years ago.

Cassady said the boys have learned from a lot.

“If you’ve been there before and you’re behind, you’ve been in situations to get ahead,” he said. “Sometimes younger kids get behind and they can’t get over that hump yet because they haven’t been put in that station. I’m really looking for my seniors to step up and to lead, no matter if they score four runs in the first inning. We need to know that it’s a seven-inning game. We’ve got to win each inning.”

When asked what they thought it would be like to get to the third round, Hall and fellow seniors, Ethan Davis and Brady Vidich, didn’t budge with their answers.

“We’ve got to worry about that when we get there,” Davis said.

First pitch today is slated for 4:30 p.m. in the best-of-three series. Game two will start at around 6:30 with a third if-necessary game on Saturday at noon.