April 16, 2009
The West Lowndes High School baseball team wants to make a deeper run in the Class A playoffs than it did last year.
After being eliminated in the first round by Natchez Cathedral, the Panthers believe they have a team that can go far if things fall into place.
West Lowndes pitcher and infielder Clark McCollum won''t be satisfied if his team doesn''t make it to the state championship series, but he knows everything must click for that to happen.
"We''ve got to start hitting the ball a little bit better and just have to come play ball better," McCollum said. "We''ve got to come ready to play and make sure everyone is ready. We can''t be striking out five or six times a game."
West Lowndes (16-5) will begin its playoff run at 5 p.m. Friday when it will face Mount Olive in a best-of-three series. The second game will be at 3 p.m. Saturday in Columbus. The third game, if necessary, also would be Saturday.
Also in Class A, East Webster will play host to Puckett in the first round with a doubleheader set for 5 p.m. Friday. The third game would be at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Panthers, who tied the Wolverines for the division title with a 9-1 record, plan to start McCollum in the first game.
McCollum threw approximately 20 pitches in two innings Monday against Starkville.
West Lowndes coach Todd Stanley also used Devin Malone, Tyquan Lucious, D.Q. Farmer, and Fredrico Moody against the Yellow Jackets.
"You''ve got a three-game series so you needed everybody," Stanley said. "You never know who is going to go down with an arm injury."
Stanley said Mount Olive is an athletic team with three quality pitchers, with the best one a left-hander.
Mount Olive (12-5) has defeated Cathedral this year, so Stanley expects a tough series, especially with the travel involved.
"We''ll get back late Friday night, but they''ll have to get up and travel early Saturday morning," Stanley said. "We''ve never played each other, so you don''t know what to expect really. We''ve just got to suck it up. It doesn''t matter about bumps and bruises. It''s playoff time. We''ll do what it takes."
Considering the distance between the schools, Mount Olive coach Chad Little compared it from going from Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico.
The travel won''t be that extreme, but Little wants his team to make the most out of the situation and have a good time in the playoffs.
"The kids enjoy playing and we just go out there to have fun," Little said.
n East Webster vs. Puckett: The Wolverines (23-3) put their offense and pitching together to close the regular season Tuesday with a 15-1 victory against West Point.
East Webster coach Wes Johnson said pitching has been a question mark all season and hopes that won''t be an issue in the postseason.
"We''re not throwing strikes as consistently as we''re going to need to," Johnson said. "Bart Stewart pitched a lot of good innings last year and he was a strike-thrower. That''s one thing we have looked for this year and we''re doing OK, but we still need to get better at that part of the game."
Pitcher Christopher Gordon understands how important performing on the mound will be against Puckett.
The inability to throw strikes has cost East Webster in its losses this season.
"In the three games we''ve lost it has been because of the walks," Gordon said. "We would walk the bases loaded, then (an opponent) would get a hit. If we limit the walks and make teams put it in play, we''ve got a good enough defense to make the plays."
Johnson likes the way the Wolverines are hitting the baseball. Four players (Gordon, Reginald O''Briant, Jermaine Liggins, and Tanner Roberson) are hitting over .400.
After winning the Class A state championship last season, Gordon said the seniors don''t want anything less this year.
"Our senior class, all eight of us, have been playing since we''ve been freshmen, and we do not want to end it with a loss," Gordon said. "We want to finish with a ''W''."
Puckett (6-11) has won six of its past seven games. One of those victories was against Collins, a Class 3A playoff team.
Gordon said the Wolverines won''t be fooled by Puckett''s record.
"We know from our experience in football that they are going to be good athletes," Gordon said. "They put us to shame in football in my freshman year."
Puckett coach Rob Knight understands it will take a strong effort to beat East Webster.
"We''re going to definitely have our hands full," Knight said. "We''ll get our oil checked by playing the defending Class A state champions."
Johnson wants his squad to come out focused and to win two games Friday so it won''t have to travel Saturday.