Six area baseball teams open playoffs today
by Johnathan Bentley
Apr 20, 2012 | 1388 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Walker pitcher John Michael Knighton throws to a Curry batter during their game last week. Both teams open the playoffs today. Walker hosts Etowah while Curry travels to Southside-Gadsden.
Photo by: Johnathan Bentley
Walker pitcher John Michael Knighton throws to a Curry batter during their game last week. Both teams open the playoffs today. Walker hosts Etowah while Curry travels to Southside-Gadsden. Photo by: Johnathan Bentley
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Forget the long road trip — and that raucous road crowd.

Walker won’t have to deal with any of that in the opening-round of the state playoffs.

While other schools are making trips across the state, the Vikings will be in the friendly confines of Valley Park for today’s best-of-three playoff series vs. Etowah.

Today’s double-header starts at 4:30 p.m. today with game 3 tentatively set for 3 p.m. Saturday if necessary.

“It’s big to be at home. We know how the ball bounces here and we get to have a home-crowd advantage,” Walker coach Pat Ware said. “It’s always better to be at home. We only had six games here all year so as far as the road goes, we’ll be ready for it, but we love playing at home.”

A total of six area teams made the playoffs. Walker is the only one opening the postseason at home.

Walker has already played a pair of games with playoff-like atmosphere. The Vikings had to beat Curry twice on the road last week just to make the playoffs. Walker got stellar performances from pitchers John Michael Knighton and Nic Woodley to take home the 5A, Area 11 title and the home field advantage that comes along with it.

Knighton is 8-1 with a save this season and has allowed just two earned runs.

“We’ve done pretty well on the mound,” Ware said. “The kids have bought into our theory of getting out or getting on in three pitches. You can’t defend a walk. We want to throw strikes and let our defense work. Coach (Ryan) Hall has done a great job getting our guys ready.”

Etowah brings a 13-21 record into today’s series.



CURRY AT SOUTHSIDE-GADSDEN

Curry doesn’t have a long history of playoff tradition.

Southside-Gadsden does.

The two teams will battle in an opening-round, best-of-three series today at Southside. The teams will play a double-header beginning at 5 p.m. today and game 3 is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday in necessary.

The Yellow Jackets have accomplished plenty this season, earning a spot in the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. Curry won its first four area games after not winning a single area game last season.

“The big thing for us is that we haven’t been here in a while. This is new to us,” Curry coach Grant Nichols said. “Last year we were 9-22 and we didn’t win an area game. To win 18 games and to get to the playoffs is a big accomplishment. The playoffs for us, are about what the kids have done, their commitment. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

“I’m tickled in regard of what we’ve done, but in the same sense, we’ve still got a lot to play for.”

Curry (18-20) takes on a Southside-Gadsden (18-13) team that has a state championship to its credit. The Panthers, a perennial playoff contender, won the championship in 2001.



DORA AT ONEONTA

Dora’s back in the playoffs for the first time in five years. The Bulldogs’ reward? Playing No. 7 Oneonta on the road.

Today’s best-of-three playoff series starts at 5 p.m. today. Game 3 will be played at noon on Saturday if necessary.

The Bulldogs (23-12) enter the playoffs playing some of their best baseball. They earned a spot in the postseason by blanking Fayette County 7-0 in the area finale. Dora won its last three games, also beating playoff-bound Carbon Hill 4-3 on Wednesday.

“Our pitchers have come along and really stepped it up down the stretch,” Dora coach Bret Andrews said. “They go out and compete and they’ve kept is in most games. We’ve had a chance, even in the ones that we lost. I try to tell our kids that we want to be in the game going into the last inning. If you do that, you have a chance.”

Dora’s top three pitchers are Blake Stone, Colton Lesley and Jordan Criswell.

Oneonta brings a 17-5 mark into today’s series.

“It will take us playing mistake-free ball to beat them. We just have to stay focused on what we need to do,” Andrews said.

“Everything that I found out about them is that they are a pretty solid team. They are aggressive at the play and they are sound defensively.”



CARBON HILL AT VINEMONT

The Bulldogs are back in the playoffs for the second time in three years under coach Royce Young.

Carbon Hill is in the postseason despite not playing a home game all season. The school’s new baseball field has been under construction since January and wasn’t done in time for the season.

Carbon Hill (12-12) plays No. 5 Vinemont (26-5) in a best-of-three, first-round series beginning at 4:30 p.m. today.

Game 3 is tentatively set for 11 a.m. if necessary.

“It’s pretty special that we are here considering the road we had to take to get here,” Young said. “It’s special, but we don’t want to be satisfied just by being there.”

Carbon Hill finished as the area runner-up to Winfield and earned a playoff spot by knocking off Cordova last week. The Bulldogs’ strength is their top two pitchers —Tylor Owens and Blaine Eads each threw shutouts against the Blue Devils.

Carbon Hill takes some momentum into the postseason following a 7-3 win over No. 3-ranked Sheffield.

“We pounded out 11 or 12 hits against them. It’s a matter of putting it together at the right time. I think this series will be more about pitching and defense. It will come down to who will scratch out a couple of runs,” Young said.

Also in Class 3A, Winston County is in the playoffs for the second straight season.

The Yellow Jackets (5-21) travel to Winfield (23-19) to take on the Pirates at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. today. Game 3 will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday if necessary.



OAKMAN AT RED BAY

After breaking a playoff drought, the Oakman Wildcats hit the road to Red Bay for a first-round series today.

Oakman (13-14) earned the area runner-up spot behind American Christian.

The Wildcats swept Sumiton Christian, leaving the Eagles out of the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

The Wildcats play Red Bay (12-18) at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. today with game 3 set for 1 p.m. Saturday if needed.