Area teams head east for quarterfinal series
Fri. May 04, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
A throw to Red Bay first baseman Austin Thorn forces American Christian Academy’s Landon Sartain back to the base during last week’s playoff series. ACA faces Woodland in a best-of-three Class 2A quarterfinal series today. (Photo by Dusty Compton)
TUSCALOOSA | Baseball teams from American Christian Academy, Winfield and South Lamar are competing to finish the season in Montgomery, site of the AHSAA finals, but first they have to head east.
South Lamar plays at Gaston, and Winfield travels to face Piedmont. American Christian Academy coach Matt Moore found out that Woodland is close to the Georgia border.
"Woodland is a very aggressive team," Moore said. "It’s an extremely hostile environment. Their whole town is going to show up. They have two good pitchers that mix it up well. They’re not extremely hard throwers, but they do have excellent command of multiple pitches. They’re going to be the best team we’ve played up to this point."
Woodland swept Ranburne by scores of 5-0 and 5-1. ACA advanced by sweeping Red Bay. Senior Kyle Smelley pitched a complete game and recorded six strikeouts as the Patriots won the opener 3-1. ACA had 15 hits in winning the second game 14-2.
"I’m just hoping that was the turning point in our team," Moore said. "It’s tough playing five to six games a week, and now you’re only going two games a week on Friday. There’s only so much practicing you can do. I think the layoff kind of got us a little lackadaisical the first two weeks, but the maturity has really turned over. The seniors are starting to figure out, ‘OK, this is the real deal. We’re very fortunate to be in the final eight.’ If you take a Friday off, you could be sitting at home the very next day, so they’ve kind of taken practice a lot more seriously this week."
Smelley will pitch in today’s opener with Addison Moore starting the second game. John Mills will start if there’s a Saturday game.
"Kyle is kind of our go-to guy right now, being a senior pitcher," Matt Moore said. "Every time I give him the ball he wants to compete."
Matt Moore said Austin Grammer drove in six runs last weekend, freshman catcher Austin Corley is hitting .600 in the playoffs and Seth Morris is hitting .425 with five RBIs through the first two rounds.
"That’s our two-, three- and four-hole hitters, and they’ve kind of carried us so far," Matt Moore said. "We’ll lean on Kyle and Addison to give us two good performances and try to get our offense going early to take as much pressure off of those two as much as we can. As long as our focus is there, we’re a pretty good offensive club."
South Lamar coach Lane Wright said his main concern after a three-hour trip is the condition of the field.
"When you play two out of three, the best team should be able to pull it together," Wright said. "I’ve heard that they’ve got a solid team with a couple players that hit the ball real well. Their catcher is a really good ballplayer. I don’t believe we’re going to see anything we haven’t seen this year because of the schedule we play."
South Lamar’s probable starting pitchers are junior right-hander Kyle Aldridge, senior right-hander Trent Wilson and senior right-hander Ryan Jaynes. The Stallions swept the first and second rounds, outscoring Faith Christian and Berry 30-6. Wright said Hank Parker is batting over .430 and Wilson is hitting over .400. Aldridge and Jaynes, a couple of .300 hitters, had back-to-back homers in one of the Berry games.
"When we started into the season, I was thinking we would probably have a pretty good pitching corps," Wright said. "We’ve got seven guys in our lineup that can hit the ball out at any time. I thought we would be good on the mound and at the plate. The last two years our defense has been a little shaky, but the second half of the season our defense has been spectacular."
Winfield coach Alan Smith said his potential starters are senior right-hander Chase Garrison; senior right-hander Hagen Stovall; junior left-hander Terran Cochran; and sophomore right-hander Alex Smothers.
Winfield pitchers accounted for three shutouts in four games as the Pirates swept Winston County and Carbon Hill.
Smith said senior catcher Marcos Garcia had a home run in the Carbon Hill series.
"I don’t think anything’s going to hurt us as far as traveling," Smith said. "We’ve played well on the road.
"Piedmont has two real good pitchers, and they’re a solid team. I think we’ll have our hands full playing them."
Reach Andrew Carroll at email@example.com or at 205-722-0223.