April 23, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School baseball coach Danny Carlisle will see a familiar face in the opposing dugout tonight in his team''s first game of the Class 5A playoffs.
When the Yellow Jackets play at Warren Central (9-18), Carlisle will coach against former player Josh Abraham at 6 p.m. today.
Carlisle treats Abraham, who played at Starkville from 1997-2000, like a son along with his brothers, Jim and Jace, but it will be about the competition when the teams play tonight.
"We''re going to do our best to wear him out," Carlisle said. "I hope he does the same for me. We talked earlier and he said he really didn''t want to do this, and I said that I don''t either, but I''m coming to wear you out."
Abraham, who is in his first season as the coach, is thankful for the opportunity he was afforded at Warren Central and is excited to have his team in the playoffs.
"I have the utmost respect for Danny Carlisle and that program," Abraham said. "I did everything I could to be the best I could be. It is very exciting to play them, but it will be unusual. It''s all fair in love and war I guess you could say.
"We''re going to do all we can to move up to the next round."
Abraham''s mother and father, Patti and Jimmy, still live in Starkville, while Jim is coaching at Quitman High and Jace is going to school in Memphis.
"We''re in each other''s corner at all times," Josh Abraham said of his family.
After beating Clinton one out of three games, the Vikings finished second in their division to earn the right to play host to Starkville.
"It''s been kind of an up-and-down year," Abraham said.
The Yellow Jackets (20-7) are the third seed out of Class 5A, Division 2, but Carlisle likes his team''s chances.
If Starkville beats Warren Central, it will play at Madison Central at 4 p.m. Friday. If Starkville loses today, it will wait on the loser of the loser of the Warren Central-Madison Central matchup at 7 p.m. Friday. The championship round begins at 1 p.m. Saturday.
In a tournament format, pitching is a key, and Carlisle has been pleased with his staff for most of this season.
"The guys have thrown well with the exception of the Tupelo game, the last South Panola game, and a couple of Louisville games," Carlisle said. "We''ve had excellent pitching in 22 (games). That''s the reason we''ve won 20."
R.J. Johnson has the most starts (11) and most innings pitched (53 2/3) on the staff, but he admits he could have been more consistent.
"At times, it has been good, but at others it''s been like who knows what happens," Johnson said. "This is the most important part of the season. You''ve got to throw strikes and give your team a chance."
Johnson and Carlisle agree the Yellow Jackets need to win tonight to be in a good position for the rest of the tournament. Carlisle has two numbers in mind for the end of the weekend.
"It''s going to be a big challenge, but the first thing we''ve got to do is focus on Warren Central," Carlisle said. "Our ultimate goal is to end up 23-7. Our secondary goal is to end up 24-8. Anything less than those two numbers and we''ll be done."