April 30, 2009
MABEN -- East Webster High School baseball coach Wes Johnson knows good pitching when he sees it.
As a pitcher who played for coach Ron Polk at Mississippi State, Johnson understands the importance of commanding the strike zone.
Johnson has been asking his pitchers to throw strikes all season, but he has yet to see it consistently.
He knows the playoffs aren''t the time for his pitchers to receive on-the-job training.
"At this point, I don''t know if there is a whole lot to do about it," Johnson said.
Johnson believes his team''s fate against Stringer in the third round of the Class 1A playoffs could be decided by which team pitches better. The series begins at 6 p.m. Friday at Stringer, returns to East Webster at 6 p.m. Saturday, and returns to Stringer on Monday if necessary.
East Webster (27-3) started Tanner Roberson and Blake Love on the mound against Bogue Chitto in the second round, but Johnson didn''t say it would be that way against Stringer (18-4). He could use Christopher Gordon as a starter.
"I''m going to be locked in on whoever is throwing the ball over the plate," Johnson said. "I think we hit the ball well enough to play with people if we can throw strikes.
"Gordon does a good job of that, so he''s in the picture. It''s really simple. If we get good pitching and play defense, we have a chance to win anytime we walk out there."
Gordon wants to do what Johnson wants his pitchers to do.
"I''m just going to throw it over the plate and let them hit it," Gordon said. "I grew up watching Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine throw it over the plate, pitch to contact, and let the defense play behind you."
Roberson and Love expect to see time on the mound and know Johnson won''t tolerate walks.
The Wolverines will have their hands full against pitcher Andrew Pierce, who has been clocked in the 90s.
Johnson hopes Pierce (6-0) won''t be a major factor in a best-of-three series.
"I don''t know if he can throw twice," Johnson said.
Gordon said East Webster will have to be focused at the plate because he has heard Pierce throws hard and has a good slider.
The key for the Wolverines in Gordon''s mind will be to work hard, to take plenty of cuts in batting practice, and to be ready.
Pierce has been recovering from an injury, and Stringer coach Tommy Perkins has tried to bring him back slowly.
"He''s thrown some relief for us at the start of the playoffs and started a game or two in the last round, so he''s getting back," Perkins said.
Perkins knows East Webster''s offense will make this a tough series, but his strategy is similar to Johnson''s.
"We''re going to try and keep them off the base, try to cut down on our walks and errors, and limit what they can do," Perkins said.
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