Although the state playoffs in Alabama don’t technically get started for another week, the final week of the regular season will be a playoff atmosphere for a couple of teams.
Most notably, Central High, despite an 8-25 record this season, still has a chance to win the Class 6A, Area 5 title with a sweep of rival Smiths Station this week.
The Red Devils have lost twice in the area and trail the Panthers (28-7, 4-0) by two games in the standings. The teams will play three games this week, 6 p.m. Tuesday at Smiths Station and a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. Friday at Central.
“Our goal at the beginning of this season was to win area,” Central coach Roy Dixon said. “To approach the last week and know that goal is still attainable, we really couldn’t ask to be in a better position, regardless of our record.”
Dixon said that early in the season his team suffered some injuries that kept it from playing the type of ball it likes to play. Now, with a full slate, Dixon said his team is ready to meet the steep challenge it will face this week.
“Our style is aggressive,” he said. “Now, we’ve got guys back and that’s how we’re playing. It’s definitely going to be a challenge (playing Smiths Station). There’s going to be a playoff atmosphere, and they have a good group of seniors who have played well. It’s going to be a big-time atmosphere, but I think our guys like the role of the underdog.”
Central can clinch second place in the area, ensuring it of a playoff spot, with a win and a split between Auburn and Opelika.
Smiths Station, meanwhile, is trying to continue the good play that has gotten it mentioned among the top teams in the state so far this season.
Panthers coach Clinton Britton said that, while he knows one win is enough to clinch the area and a home series in the opening round of the state playoffs next week, series’ against Central are never easy tasks.
“It’s always a big rivalry game anyway,” he said. “We expect their best. They’re going to come ready to play. They have their backs against the wall, and we’ll have to meet the challenge.”
That hasn’t been a problem for the Panthers thus far this season.
“I like this baseball team,” Britton said. “I think they come to play. They come to compete every day. They practice hard and have played consistent ball all year. Hopefully, we’re about to hit our peak.”
Russell County looking to stay focused
Russell County (31-6, 6-0 Class 5A, Area 4) has already clinched first place in its area, ensuring it a home series in the opening round of the state playoffs next week.
The Warriors will play three games against Carroll High on Thursday and Friday, but coach Tony Rasmus isn’t ready for his team’s regular season to be over just yet.
On Monday, the coach said he has made “about 50 phone calls,” trying to find a team that is willing to play the Warriors on Saturday or early next week. Rasmus wants a talented team, maybe even one better than his one, in order to keep his team focused going into the playoffs.
“I don’t want to go into the playoffs without a ton of competition in the final week,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, Carroll might beat us three times, but I want to find a team that will make us work to keep our momentum going. I don’t want to slack off.”
Rasmus said the Warriors have two available dates left and that he is going to continue to work to find a partner for one final regular-season dance.
Glenwood playing for home-field advantage
The Glenwood baseball team has clinched a playoff spot, but has work left to do for a home game in the first round of the AISA playoffs.
The Gators (17-9, 2-2) play against Springwood on Tuesday. A win would clinch the 2-seed out of their region, giving them a home game to start the playoffs. A loss would mean a tie and a playoff to determine final seeding. Lee-Scott has already clinched the top seed.
"Ever since Saturday, it seems like the boys have come together and really been focused," coach Tim Fanning said. "It sounds cliché, but we just have to throw strikes and make plays. We haven't put all phases together until the last three games, so hopefully that will continue."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571