Familiar territory

Published 12:02 am Thursday, May 1, 2014

0501 spt-Ethan Davis

Opp’s Ethan Davis waits for a pitch at Merchants Field durng an earlier game this season. The Bobcats host Sipsey Valley in the third round of the Calss 3A state playoffs this week. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Bobcats to tango with Bears on Friday

Opp will once again be stepping into third-round territory tomorrow night as the Bobcats host Sipsey Valley at Merchants Field for an Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 3A state playoffs series.

The Bobcats battled from a five-run deficit last week to win 11-8 over T.R. Miller in game one, stayed tied with the Tigers in game two until pulling away late to get the sweep last week and earn a berth to this week’s play for the first time in 20 years.

Sipsey Valley, like Opp, can swing the bat when it needs to. Twenty home runs have been tallied for the Bears this season.

Not to mention how many bases have been stolen by their runners, OHS baseball coach Michael Cassady said.

“They’ve got three or four guys who have double-digit stolen bases,” Cassady said.

Sipsey Valley’s Blake Gray leads the Bears with 18 stolen bases.

On the mound, Bears pitcher Cody Mills is the Buhl team’s No. 1 guy. Landon Davis, Nathan Harcrow, Justin Thomas and Garrett Lewis bring up the rear.

“They throw all three pitches for strikes,” Cassady said. “They like to work ahead in the count. They just like to pound the zone and work ahead, and then once they get ahead, they can dictate what they want to pitch.”

In last week’s series win, Opp used several pitchers. Cassady said he thinks whoever has the deepest pitching staff will do well.

“We used three guys during the first game in the second round,” he said. “Landon Hughes started, got his pitching count up and we pulled him and brought in Britt Buckelew. Then Dakota King came in and faced six batters and struck out three.

“In the second game, Ethan Davis gave up one run through six innings,” he said. “Ethan was the first pitcher to throw 100 pitches this season. He threw 105 through six.”

Additionally, Cassady said there are a few Bobcats who haven’t pitched yet who could get a chance to show their stuff.

While SVHS may be a good team, Opp is too, the coach said.

“There’ s a reason why you’re in the third round,” Cassady said. “There’s a reason why they’re in the third round. We feel like we’ve got a good team, too. Our pitching has been the key to us all year. We’ve put pressure on our teams with our offense — running bases and doing different things. Our defense the last couple of games has gone above and beyond.”

Davis said the key to the wins last week against TRM was going out there and doing what each player does best.

“We just played,” he said. “We kept fighting.”

While making it to the third round is great, Davis said the team feels like it isn’t where it wants to be.

They’re still playing for Montgomery, he said.

“If we’re looking ahead, we’re not going to be focused on Friday night,” Cassady said. “Obviously, it would be great to move on. We felt like the first win Friday against Miller was huge because it was at their place and their number one was on the mound. Once you beat them at their place, you put pressure on them. We want to try to do the same thing this Friday. We want to be able to win the first game and put the pressure on them.”

Fortunately, the Bobcats will be playing at home, where they play particularly well.

“It’s always nice when you’re home in this round because you don’t have to worry about travel,” Casssady said. “I think they’re coming down (tonight) so they’re one practice down and will have to worry about an itinerary.

“We can just carry on with our routine,” he said. “That’s big for us. Plus you get to play at home in front of a home crowd, and it’s the first time in 20 years that we’ve been in the third round.”

Cassady said it would be good to have two teams advance to the state semifinals next week. Andalusia travels to Childersburg on Friday for the third round.

“There are two teams that are 11 miles apart who are in the third round,” he said. “One of them is traveling and one is at home. We sure hope that both of these Covington County teams get to move on to the next round.”