Southside travels to Pinson Valley for 5A matchup
Thu. May 03, 2012 at 9:56 p.m. | By Andrew Schmidt Sports Writer
Taylor Snow and the Southside Panthers play Pinson Valley today in the Class 5A playoffs. (Photo by Sarah Dudik | Gadsden Times | File)
Southside will hit the road today for a Class 5A state high school baseball quarterfinal doubleheader at Pinson Valley, looking to make it back to the state semifinals for the second time in three years.
While a series victory would put this year’s Panthers team as deep into the postseason as coach Blake Bone’s 2010 squad, the two teams couldn’t look more different. That team relied heavily on the long ball, blasting 56 home runs as a team. Bone said this year he hasn’t seen 10 homers all season, between his team and their opponents combined.
A big part of the difference is a result of nationally implemented safety rules that went into effect this season. The new standards called for bats that lowered the speed with which balls leave the bat, making them perform more like wooden bats used in professional baseball. Another factor, which Bone recognized early on, was a difference in personnel.
“I knew we weren’t going to be a power team like a couple years ago,” Bone said. “We’re not built like that. But we run well and do some other things well.”
The changes for Southside (23-15) to its own version of small ball, featuring bunting, motion on the basepaths and hitting behind runners, took a while to catch on.
“We started off slow,” Bone said. “I think there were some adjustments to the things we were trying to do and implement. It took guys a little while to adjust, and I think they finally bought into it. You can play small ball and do the fundamentals and win games.”
Bone said he saw things start to shift for his team about midseason. Headed into a doubleheader against area foe Boaz, the Panthers were 10-10 overall. The Panthers swept the Pirates that day, and they haven’t looked back.
“We have been playing our best ball at the end of the year, and that’s always a good thing,” Bone said. “We use the beginning of the year to figure out some things, and by the end of the year, it’s time to put it all together.”
The Panthers lineup is predictably full of speed, with Andrew Fuhrman and Braxton Light setting the table for the bigger bats of Caleb Butler and Taylor Snow. Blake Devine, Drew Mullinax, Scott Hardin, Conner Paulson and Cody Pylant round out the order.
Southside will send Alex Pondick and Fuhrman to the mound in today’s games. Other pitchers who could be used in the series include Brock Love and Drew Mullinax — who combined in last week’s rubber game win over Walker — as well as Jesse Fry, Patrick Lister and Austin Kidd.
“Our guys have done all we could ask of them as far as our starters and guys out of the bullpen,” Bone said. “We feel confident with the rotation and what they’re doing for us and at least giving our offense a chance to win the game. That’s all you can ask out of those guys. ... We’ve got a lot of guys that have thrown well.”
Pinson Valley (27-13), which claimed a 1-0 win over Southside when the teams met earlier this year, has a host of solid pitchers, with Bailey Chesser and Colby Wingard leading a group that includes David Stasiak and Brad Eckmyre. Kaleb Harris, Josh Hines and Tyler Evans are the top threats at the plate for coach Josh Johnson’s Indians, who have swept Ramsay and John Carroll in the first two rounds.
“I’ve known Josh since college when he was at Montevallo,” Bone said. “He does a good job. They’re going to be fundamentally sound. They’ve got a lot of good arms. They’ve got four or five righties that can run it up there in the mid-80s and throw strikes. It’s a quality opponent that we’re facing. It should be a good matchup.”
Today’s doubleheader begins at 4:30 p.m. If a third game is needed, it will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday.