First year head coach Tyler Dent believes his seniors who have previous playoff experience have been critical to this year’s playoff run.
“Having guys that have been there before, it’s helping me a lot,” Dent said. “I haven’t been to a state championship at the high school level, but in college I played in regional championship games, World Series games, and stuff like that. So, I’m used to the pressure and most of my guys are used to the pressure. I’ve got a group of seniors that realize this could be it for them and they want it more than anything. That’s the good thing is I’ve got a group of guys as a whole that really wants to be there.”
The team is well aware defeating Clarke Prep is no easy task.
“I hear they’re pretty tough,” senior catcher Garrett McMillan said. “I hear they’re real scrappy. They don’t go down easily. I’ve heard they’re pitching is really solid, but if we play the way we’re supposed to play it should be no problem getting past them tomorrow. Hopefully, all goes well. So far in the playoffs, we’ve really stepped it up. We’ve come together real well whenever it counts.”
As one of the team’s top pitchers, senior Allen Logan said one of the keys will be getting ahead in the count.
“The scouting report says they’ve got one pitcher that throws about 80, 81,” Logan said. “We hit a guy two weeks ago against Northside that was throwing 82 or 83. Our pitchers just have to get ahead of the count, stay ahead, we’ve got to play good defense and we’re going to hit the ball and play a lot of small ball.”
The team’s other top pitcher, senior Jake Carter, said getting ahead in the count was key to winning at Pickens Academy.
“Coach always says if you get ahead of the count and you throw strikes, we’re going to back you up,” Carter said. “It’s whenever I start throwing balls, the team starts kind of playing bad behind me. But if I stay ahead, it’s hard to beat me when I’m on the hill throwing my game, getting ahead of the count and mixing stuff up. I thought I did a pretty good job of doing that and I think that’s why we had a good game against Pickens Academy.”
Dent said it was collective team effort, but noted his pitchers put the team in a position to win by never allowing a runner to get into scoring position.
“Pretty much the whole team played together both games,” Dent said. “The whole night not a runner got to second. That speaks for itself, especially with our pitchers Jake and Allen. They both threw strikes. They probably threw their best games of the year. Hitting at the plate, our approaches were even better than the week before. We hit the ball into the gaps, put guys into motion, we played our game. I told our guys we probably couldn’t play anybody much better than that.”
Dent said if his pitchers have a performance befitting of their abilities, the team will once again be in a position to win.
“This is it,” Carter said. “You’ve got to play every game like you think it’s about to be your last game. That’s how I’ve always played: just every game how I think it’s about to be my last game that I’ll ever play and I don’t want to go out with anything other than a ring.”
CVA’s overall regular season record was disappointing to many in the clubhouse, but it’s important to note the team played a number of top teams in the higher AAA division. Dent believes while those losses may have hurt during the regular season, they will now benefit the team during the playoffs.
“We’ve seen the best,” Dent said. “We know where we stand with the best statewide. Three of those four teams are in the final four in AAA this year. You’ve got Lee-Scott, Glenwood, and Pike Liberal Arts are all in the final four in AAA. So, we know where we matchup against the best. It’s definitely going to help us this week.”