For the first time since 2005, the Hardaway baseball team goes into the playoffs with a top seed.
It will certainly be a benefit for the Hawks, who host a doubleheader at 2 p.m. Thursday to open a best-of-three series against Northgate in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. But coach Chris Gilstrap isnt taking anything for granted.
It isnt a traditional 1-versus-4 matchup, he said on Tuesday.
Thats because Northgate isnt a typical 4-seed. It is just four years removed from a state championship and finished the regular season with 18 wins, 15 of which came in one of the toughest regions in the state. Two of the regions four teams are currently ranked among the top 10 in Class AAAAA.
Its a better feeling knowing you were the best in your region, Gilstrap said. You get the 4-seed, which is a lucky thing. Those are some tough teams out of that region.
One of the main things to remember about Northgate, Gilstrap said, is that it is a team that doesnt beat itself. Sure, they have talented players, but its also a team that stresses fundamentals.
Theyve got some good hitters and theyre very well coached, Gilstrap said. Theyre not going to beat themselves. It all comes down to what we can do on our end. We dont want to be the team that plays to its level of competition. If we play the way were capable of, were confident.
Hardaway has lost just four times this season and never twice in a row. It took two out of three games in four of its region series, and Gilstrap said hes just trying to keep the guys loose and focused on continuing that trend.
Were not worried much about the fact that were a 1-seed or anything, he said. Nobodys looking at it that way. We just want to keep them loose and mix up practice a little so we dont get into a boring routine. Weve done well so far, so we just want to focus on moving on.
Still, its something a lot of the players have never experienced. Gilstrap knows there will be some people that doubt his team because of that, but thats not a bad position to be in.
You want to jump out and open some eyes, he said. Im sure there are still some doubters out there who say that we played in an easier region or whatever. We know what were capable of, though. Wed much rather be a team that people underestimate than have a target on our back.
Hardaway will send pitchers C.J. Brown and Travon Dorsey to the hill for the first two games of the series on Thursday.
Gilstrap said theres a field full of players who are itching to be out there.
Theyre ready to go, he said. Theyve been waiting for this for a long time.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.