Steve Westmoreland thought hard about a difficult decision he needed to make before the season started.
After consulting his assistant coaches, most notably Tracy Powell, the former Hardaway head coach, Westmoreland came to the conclusion he needed a true leadoff hitter and senior Cody Sheedy best fit the description.
"He had the speed and he could get us some extra-base hits," Westmoreland said. "We thought he could be a guy to get us a runner-in-scoring-position right off the board."
Sheedy, who was the Tigers' No. 3 hitter during his sophomore and junior seasons, moved to the top of lineup and has been there ever since. Harris County needs him
to get the offense started Tuesday when they travel to Johns Creek to meet the Gladiators in the best-of-three quarterfinal series of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA state playoffs.
Game 1 begins at 4 p.m. with the second game to follow. If a third game is needed, it would be played at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The senior, who has already signed with Georgia, hasn't disappointed. He is hitting .404 with six homers, 12 doubles and 24 RBIs. His on-base percentage is an impressive .487, meaning he usually gets on base at least twice a game.
"I'm seeing a few more fastballs, so I just try to jump on them early," Sheedy said. "I think it's a little less stressful (than hitting No. 3). I like getting the game started off."
In the Tigers' second-round sweep of East Paulding last week, Sheedy wasted no time getting Harris County on the scoreboard. In Game 1, he led off with a double, later scoring on an error to highlight a three-run first inning.
Then in Game 2 with the Tigers playing as the visitors, he ripped the second pitch he saw for a triple and later scored on Andrew Fears' RBI groundout. In the series, he finished 3-for-7 with a double and a triple.
"He's one of those guys who is not going to call himself a perfectionist, but he expects to excel at what he does," Westmoreland said. "He's certainly not scared to work hard at anything."
Sheedy said getting his pitchers run support has been key to the postseason. In four playoff games against Mt. Zion-Jonesboro and East Paulding, Harris County has scored at least one run in the first inning of every game.
"It gives them confidence having a few runs to start with," said Sheedy, who also pitches but has been limited this season.
Westmoreland has been just as impressed with Sheedy's play at shortstop. He has teamed with second-baseman Justin Strickland and first-baseman Tyler Milner to turn two 6-4-3 double plays in the postseason.
None were bigger than last Wednesday. With the bases loaded in the third inning of Game 1, Harris pitcher Payne Kosobucki got East Paulding's Glen Finks to send a ground ball to Sheedy, who helped turn the double-play to get out of the inning.
"That was one of my favorite plays," he said. "I like being the guy in charge on the field."
Regardless of the outcome of the third round, Sheedy will graduate from Harris County later this week with a 3.98 grade-point average. He said he made one B in high school, that coming last year when he made an 89 in an honors economics class.
Westmoreland misses Sheedy's power and RBI production at the No. 3 position. However, Andrew Fears has filled Sheedy's shoes and performed admirably.
"Thinking about the decision to move him to leadoff, you always want your best hitters to bat No. 3 or No. 4," Westmoreland said. "When we mentioned moving Cody to the top, he was so excited about it and told us that was where he wanted to be."
Suddenly, Westmoreland's decision wasn't so difficult.
-- Tim Morse is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org