No bus ride, no hotel room, no fast food.
Okay, well maybe fast food.
“The kids’ schedules aren’t going to change,” BA head baseball coach Daryl Evans said Wednesday morning as he and junior varsity assistant coach Mike Wilhelm took a break from working on a rain-soaked field to talk about his Gators hosting a first-round state playoff game. “Everything is staying the same. It just happens to be a playoff game instead of a regular-season home game.”
Bulloch Academy hosts the Christian Heritage Lions from Dalton for a three-game series in the opening round of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) Class AA baseball playoffs. The first game will be Friday at 5 p.m. The second game of the best-of-three series will be Saturday at 11 a.m. with the third game, if necessary, to immediately follow.
As per GISA guidelines, admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students (kindergarten through 12th grade). BA athletic passes are not valid for playoff games. The only passes which will be accepted are the GISA coaches’ passes (coach and spouse), GAOA officials’ passes and media passes.
The Gators finished second in Region 2-AA and won the right to play at home.
“It’s the first time in a while that BA has hosted a playoff series,” said Evans. “For these guys, it’s uncharted territory.”
Bulloch Academy last hosted a playoff series in 2004. Last season, the Gators made it to the ‘Elite Eight’. In the first round, BA pulled off an improbable two-game sweep of Windsor Academy in Macon. The Gators pounding the Knights 15-0 in five innings in the first game and then 11-0 in five innings in the deciding contest.
But Bulloch’s postseason ended the next weekend against the Heritage Hawks in a rain-soaked series in Newnan. The Gators were nipped 2-0 on Friday but had to endure days in a hotel and a change of venue before the series could be concluded. Heritage run-ruled Bulloch 16-6 that Monday.
Bulloch Academy’s baseball team made back-to-back ‘Elite Eight’ appearances in 2004 and 2005. The Gators won the state baseball crown in 1982 and in 1984 and were state runners-up in 1989 and 1991.
Christian Heritage made it to the Class AA ‘Final Four’ last season where they took on the Hawks. They lost 2-0, dropping a 1-0 decision in Game One and a 2-0 contest in Game Two.
Evans hasn’t had the chance to see the Lions in person but he has been given a scouting report.
“I was told that the top of their order is pretty good at the plate,” he said. “They have two good arms that pound the strike zone. From what I understand, they aren’t going to overpower you but they aren’t going to initiate rallies with walks either. Defensively, they make the routine plays. I do know that they beat the team that everyone figures will win state (Heritage). But, on any given day…”
Tuesday’s day-long deluge took its toll on the Gator baseball field. Evans and parent volunteer Matt Blitch used a Mud Hawg pump, borrowed from Swim-Pro Pools, to vacuum up the water. After school, players used squeegees, provided by parent volunteer Herbert Jacobs, to move water. According to Evans, the field should be in good shape by Friday.
“We are going to try and salvage home plate today and work on the cutouts at the bases tomorrow,” he said. “Barring anymore rain, it should be ready by Friday.”
Even though Bulloch hasn’t played a game since April 27, Evans feels his players are ready for post season.
“The guys have proven that they can get ready for the postseason,” said Evans. “We went to the Elite Eight last year and went deep into the football and basketball playoffs this year. It’s pretty much the same nucleus of players. Not playing for 10 days should not affect them. We have been hitting, fielding, throwing and seeing live pitching. I don’t think it will hurt us.”
Evans has a lot of talent on this year’s squad and looks for it all to work together in order for the Gators to advance in the postseason.
“Taylor (Burke) and Walker (Blitch) have carried us,” Evans said of his top two pitchers. “I don’t look at them as number one and two but as 1-A and 1-B. Win Lee is going to have to throw some key innings. Davis Howell, Bailey Smith and Clayton Rogers will have some time on the mound.
“Win is our most consistent hitter and has the highest batting average,” continued Evans. “He went from number five hitter last year to clean-up this season and didn’t miss a beat. Rogers expanded his role from utility player last year to starter and number five hitter this year. Brian Atkinson improved from last year to this year and is a key player in our lineup. We’ve also got three freshmen (Smith, Loy Waters, Matthew Blitch) who have stepped up and seen considerable playing time.”
Evans hopes for good performances from all of his players.
“I want the guys to play well, do the things we’ve worked on all year long and get back into the swing of things,” he said. “Obviously, we want to advance to the second round and do it in just two games. The main thing is not to overlook Christian Heritage.”