TA opens best-of-three series in finals today
Wed. May 09, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
TA’s Parker Farley, center, completes a double play during a game against Monroe Academy in Tuscaloosa. Backing up the play is the Knights’ Greg Taylor. (Photo by Staff photo | Dusty Compton )
TUSCALOOSA | Patrick Jones, first-year head coach for the Tuscaloosa Academy baseball team, has been pleased with the development of his players over the course of the season, but the most satisfying way to end it is with a championship.
The Knights face Pike Liberal Arts of Troy today in the AISA Class AAA finals. The Patriots have beaten Tuscaloosa Academy twice this season. The Knights were 0-3 against Monroe Academy before eliminating the Vols in the quarterfinal round.
"It’s kind of been our motto all year," Jones said. "We can be happy, but we’re not going to be satisfied until we hold that (championship) trophy. I’m very happy with the way that this season’s turned out here in the end. If we go down there and lose two, it’ll be tough to remember that happiness for a couple of days.
"We’ve got a team that can go and win this thing. Our ability to have multiple guys step up and make big plays in big moments is probably our best asset as a team. The last two or three weeks it’s been a different guy, whether getting the offense started, on the mound or making a big play on defense. That’s given us a lot of confidence as a team. At the same time, they understand they’re playing a very, very good ballclub in Pike Liberal Arts. We’re going to have play our best baseball to come home with this trophy."
Jon Boyd is the only senior. Boyd, a left-hander, will pitch or play in right field. He pitched in only two mop-up innings last week as sophomore right-hander Robey Smalley and junior right-hander Kyle Andrews picked up the wins in a sweep of Prattville Christian. Jones said Austin Menard could pitch if needed.
"We don’t have a specific, defined No. 1 pitcher," Jones said. "Jon Boyd is our senior, and he’s our emotional as well as our physical leader, but I feel like we have three No. 1’s."
Jones said the Knights are averaging right at 10 runs a game since regional playoffs started.
"We’ve got some guys in the middle of the lineup that have been great hitters for us all year that are maybe not hitting quite as well as they’ve wanted to here down the stretch, but I don’t plan on changing anything," Jones said. "We kind of like having guys down at the bottom of our lineup that can pop it and move it around a little bit too, and it makes us deep."
Junior center-fielder Clay Thomas, who is hitting around .400 and leads the team in homers, is the leadoff hitter. Jones said he likes to have the versatile Greg Taylor batting second. Taylor, a junior, can play at second base or in the outfield.
"Clay’s up there for speed," Jones said. "For the last two years he’s hit very well for average, and he gets on base all the time. Greg Taylor is a lefty who can get bunts down. He can also get up there and hit you a double if you need one."
Sophomore catcher William Heath is hitting .368 and leads the team in triples.
"He’s probably got the most just pure raw pop in our lineup," Jones said.
Jones said Boyd, who has a .465 average, is batting around .600 with runners in scoring position.
"Jon is our anchor," Jones said. "He’s had quite a senior year. I’m very proud of him."
Andrews, a junior third baseman, is the RBI lead with 32.
"He’s probably our best infielder as far as defense goes," Jones said. "He’s kind of been our pitching hero in the playoffs, but he can swing it pretty good."
Taylor White, who bats sixth, can play at second or fill the designated hitter role. White is hitting .320.
"He’s not going to scare you with his size or his strength, but he keeps innings going," Jones said. "He probably has the most bat control on our team."
Sophomore Daniel Winters is an outfielder. Junior Jonathan Plott plays first base, and junior Parker Farley is a shortstop.
"Daniel has probably been our most surprising player when it comes to offense," Jones said. "He’s always been a great, defender in the outfield. He’s got great speed, and he gets good jumps on the ball. He’s hitting around .318, 320. It’s tough to keep him from causing a ruckus on the bases when he gets on there.
"As far as technical swings go, Jonathan probably has our best swing. He had a little bit of difficulty early in the season adjusting to these new bats and understanding what he had to do to be a productive hitter. The last three or four weeks he’s kind of gotten it. We’ve been excited to see him catch fire down the stretch.
"Parker is kind of the same deal with Jonathan. He’s actually been stinging it pretty good the last month and a half. The balls really started dropping for him in the last three weeks or so. That’s another guy with absolutely fantastic speed."
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