Westbrook Christian faces Mars Hill Bible
Thu. May 03, 2012 at 10:03 p.m. | By Kim Craft Sports Editor
Westbrook Christian’s John Mayfield is batting .483 this season with five home runs. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times | File)
Don’t expect to see the unexpected from Westbrook Christian’s baseball team when the Warriors host Mars Hill Bible today in their Class 2A state high school baseball quarterfinal series.
Westbrook skipper Matt Kennedy isn’t too keen on change, at least when it comes to the postseason. He figures, why fix something that isn’t broken?
“We’re not going to change anything that we’ve done all year,” said the veteran coach, who’s leading the Warriors (26-11) in their seventh straight year of competing in the playoffs. “We’re going to continue to do the same thing we’ve been doing because I feel like, as a coach, if you start changing and tweaking and really changing a lot of stuff from what you normally do, then your players don’t have any confidence that you have confidence in them.”
He said small changes to the lineup are something his players are accustomed to because “we had done that a couple times during the year, so it’s not like the guys are freaking out about that, but I think if you go change your routine very much, if you change your approach at the plate, it shows them that you don’t have confidence in what they’ve been doing all year.”
Kennedy certainly has confidence in his young squad, and knows the fourth-ranked Warriors will have plenty to handle when taking the field at William Stewart Park for a doubleheader starting at 4:30 p.m. today in the best-of-three series against the top-ranked Panthers (37-6).
“I think it’ll be a huge challenge for us,” Kennedy said. “We’ve been going at it the same way we usually go at it, just trying to get ready for the next game.”
The next game involves encountering a team with three stellar pitchers. Thomas Burrows, Glenn Irby and Colby Smith have lost just two games among them for this season. Burrows and Irby, both lefties, entered Mars Hill’s sweep of Hatton in the second round last week with an 0.89 and a 0.79 ERA, respectively. Smith, who also saw action on the mound in that series, went into it with a 1.80 ERA.
Westbrook’s not too shabby on the mound either, with a group of five pitchers who’ve been able to throw strikes and keep the Warriors in games with opportunities to win all season.
Mikhail Cazenave, Jake Kilgo and John Mayfield have one loss among them, and it came in last week’s second round-playoff series against Section when the Warriors needed three games to advance. Kilgo holds a 0.92 ERA, while Mayfield’s is 0.99 and Cazenave’s is 2.04.
Matthew Reaves also is a starter for Westbrook, while Blaine Beaird serves as the Warriors’ long reliever and closer.
“It’s going to depend on the situation,” Kennedy said, as to who throws the nightcap of the doubleheader, “but I do know we’re going to throw Mikhail in game one.”
Cazenave will contend with a Mars Hill ballclub that entered the second round of the playoffs batting .362. Burrows’ .488 average, and Irby’s .439, lead the Panthers.
Kennedy expects Irby to start the opener for Mars Hill, and suspects, as is the case with Westbrook, it will depend on how that game goes as to whether Burrows or Smith throws the nightcap for the Panthers.
Mayfield, the only senior on the Warriors’ pitching staff and one of three on the team, leads Westbrook at the plate with a .483 average, five home runs, 24 RBI and 53 runs scored as the team’s leadoff hitter.
Kilgo and Reaves also are batting over .400, with Reaves accounting for a team-leading 46 RBI and scoring 39 runs, second behind Mayfield.
“We’re not depending on one guy,” Kennedy noted. “We’ve got five quality pitchers, and we’ve got a lot of different guys that have contributed to scoring all throughout the season, anywhere form our nine-hole guy hitting a home run to John getting on and us bunting him over. So it’s been more of a team effort.”
That’s what the Warriors will need to avenge a 2010 quarterfinal series loss to Mars Hill and derail the No. 1 Panthers, who ended up winning it all two years ago, before losing in the quarterfinals in 2011.
“We’re going to have to play really well and just execute,” Kennedy stressed. “We’ve got to have good pitching, and we’ve got to play really good defense. I think if we can scratch out a couple of runs and hold them, then we’ll have a chance.”
If the teams split today’s doubleheader, the third game will be played at noon Saturday.