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PLAYING FOR THE TITLE: Andalusia readies for championship series

The Andalusia Bulldogs (28-4) will compete for their first state title on the diamond when they take on Hokes Bluff (27-6) today in the Class 4A state championship at Paterson Field in Montgomery.

“This is something that everyone is talking about in January,” Andalusia head coach Tyler Dent said of playing for the state title. “Now, there are only 14 teams that get a chance to do it, and we are fortunate enough to be one of those teams. We set this as our No. 1 goal. We have continued to reach our short-term goals and now we have a chance to reach our long-term goal. It’s very exciting.”

Dent said that he knows Hokes Bluff is going to be a challenge.

“Like any team at this point, they are really good,” Dent said. “ They have a few arms that do a good job of pounding the zone. They don’t have any overpowering stuff, but they do a great job commanding the strike zone. We’ve stressed that at practice this weekend. We are going to have to put together quality at bats to beat these guys. They have a few guys that hit for power and there isn’t an easy out in their line up.”

The Bulldogs are excited about playing for the title, but Dent said they have remained focused on the task at hand.

“Their attitude has been like it has been for the past four or five months,” Dent said. “They have the same approach that they have had all year. They are who they are. One of the best parts of being a head coach is seeing guys figure things out. They have figured out a lot of things this year. We’ve been fortunate enough to play an extra five weeks and 10 extra games. These young guys are getting a lot of extra experience.”

Dent said the Bulldogs will take the same approach to the state championship as they have to every other series this season.

“We just have to do what we’ve done all year,” Dent said. “The things we have been doing this year have gotten us to this point so there is no reason to change that now. One thing about this team is that we try to play the game the right way. We respect the game, respect our opponents and respect the facilities that we are playing at.”

While the first game of the series will be played at Paterson Field, game two and game three will be played at Riverwalk Stadium.

“One thing we’ve talked about is the outfield at Riverwalk is bigger than what we are used to,” Dent said. “We have to do a good job of getting to balls. That goes both ways. It could just as easily help us as it does them.”

Dent said he hopes to see a lot of Bulldog fans in Montgomery today and Wednesday.

“I hope to see our community come out and continue to support this team,” Dent said. “We have had tremendous support this season. The crowd at the Holtville game was incredible. To have that kind of support at an Andalusia baseball game is amazing. I would love to see that kind of support this week in Montgomery.”