Area teams prepare for the 1st round of playoffs
Some area baseball teams will be packing it up this week as the regular season concludes, but four Talladega County teams have clinched spots in the state playoffs.

Childersburg won area 10 in class 4A and Fayetteville won area 7 in class 1A. Both teams will host playoff series this weekend, while Sylacauga and Munford both made the playoffs as area runners-up and will travel to their opponents’ home field.

All four teams will play best-of-three series that begin Friday and may continue through Saturday.

Fayetteville hosts Southeastern with first pitch at 2 p.m. Childersburg hosts Handley Friday with first pitch at 4 p.m. Sylacauga travels to Homewood with first pitch at 4:30 p.m. Munford travels to Oneonta with first pitch at 4:30 p.m.

This is Fayetteville’s fourth year in a row winning their area and fifth straight playoff appearance.

“I’m real proud of my guys for battling this year,” Fayetteville head coach Morris Phillips said. “We’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs, good times and bad times. They kept battling every game. We’re real fortunate to come out on top and to win the area this year. I just want to thank God for allowing us to play this game and be able to play it this year and to be as successful as we’ve been.”

Similarly, Sylacauga head coach Mike Gibbs is proud of his team’s accomplishment.

“We’re the area runner-up in a tough area with us, Chilton County, Talladega and Shelby County, so we’re fortunate to be there,” Gibbs said. “We’re happy that we at least have an opportunity for postseason. I told our kids today if we’ll just play consistently like we’re capable of playing, offensive and defensively, we can do a good job. That’s just been the problem: playing consistent every game and even some inconsistencies during the game, but overall I’m happy. We’re 20-10 and I’m very pleased for the kids. They’re very excited about the opportunity to go into postseason.”

Being the area winner gives Fayetteville a big advantage in having the home crowd.

“Home field advantage is a great thing to have,” Phillips said. “We’re real fortunate in Fayetteville to have a great set of parents that like to follow us, like to support us whether it’s a home game or an away game. We’ve been to some away games and it felt like a home game to us, because we’ve got more fans than the home team actually does. Playing at home is always great. The boys seem a little more comfortable playing at home, so that’ll be a plus to us.”

Meanwhile, Gibbs is aware of the challenge of having to play on the road.

“Playing on the road is tough,” Gibbs said. “It’s tough for anybody. Obviously, you would much rather be the area winner so that you could play at home. Any coach would tell you that. You sometimes wonder how your team is going to react to that, but we’ve played a lot of road games this year through the regular season. We’ve played a lot of good teams away from home, so it’s nothing new. Most of our kids that are playing here this year up and down the roster haven’t played in a state playoff game. So, there’s a little bit of inexperience in that sense. We did go to Chilton County one time and beat them at their place, so hopefully that’ll pay off.”

In addition to having to play on the road, Sylacauga faces the current seventh-ranked team in 5A, the Homewood Patriots.

“They’re a lot like Chilton County,” Gibbs said. “They have a couple of good pitchers. They have one really good left-handed pitcher. Not only that, they have a good team surrounding their pitching stuff. From what I understand, it reminds me a lot of Chilton County. Good from top to bottom, a couple of good pitchers that they rely on, solid in the field, a little older on the roster than we are and we’ve got to go to their place, so it’ll be a tough challenge but they’re a lot like Chilton County as far as their talent. It’ll be a challenge to go up there and beat them, but we’ll give it a try.”

Phillips believes defense will determine how Fayetteville fares in the playoffs.

“The key to our success is going to be our defense. Right now, we’re hitting the ball well, but we’ve got to make plays on defense. We can’t make six, seven or more errors a game and expect to win. If we can go out there and play error-free ball and play good baseball, we’ve got a shot to make some noise.”
© 2013