Region showdown

Published 8:50 pm Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Today, two of the best baseball programs in the AISA will meet in Phenix City.

In a battle of two highly ranked teams, Pike Liberal Arts will look to take out the defending state champions – Glennwood Academy, who is ranked No. 1 with a 22-3 record, on the road.

The Patriots, who are currently ranked No. 4 with an 18-3 overall record, are coming off a 30-2 beat down of Hooper Academy on Monday but that is something the team is going to have to forget before Thursday’s big showdown, according to the team’s head skipper.

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“Glennwood has a good baseball program,” head coach Butch Austin said.

“They have won the last couple of state championships and in my opinion the No. 1 private school baseball team in the state.

“If we are pitching well and hitting well, there is no doubt we will win,” he added.

The Patriots will send senior Will Starling to the mound, and if his statistics this season is any indication of what to expect, PLAS should be fairly solid on the mound.

Starling leads the team in both the wins and strikeout categories.

The senior is 5-0 so far this season with a 3.36 ERA and has 45 strikeouts in 25 innings.

“If (Will) is pitching well we got a good chance of winning, but if he is struggling we are going to have to get some runs across the plate if we want to win,” the coach said.

Scoring runs is another area where the Patriots have yet to struggle this season.

In the 21 games the Patriots have played in, the team has blasted 31 home runs and out hit and outscored its opponents by a wide margin – 268 and 289 to 93 and 74.

“We are swinging the bat really well right now,” catcher Blake Floyd said after the team’s practice Wednesday afternoon.

“Our line up is stacked – anyone in it can hit a home run and drive in runs.

“If we are swinging like we have been there is no reason we can’t knock all their pitchers out of the game,” Floyd added.

One area the Gators may have some success in is one that has plagued PLAS all season long

The Achilles’ heal for the Patriots has been its defense, but that weakness is something Austin said should not be a problem for too much longer.

“The past two or three days, we have looked pretty good in the field,” Austin said. “We have had a hop in our step lately. I have talked to the guys about feeling the ball into their gloves and they have responded pretty well so far.”

There is a lot more at stake for both teams however, besides a Top 5 showdown.

The winner of this game will also take a hold of the region itself.

“This is a big game,” Austin said. “I am not going to say it’s the biggest we have played all season but we are definitely going to have to be ready for this one.

“We have a great group of seniors though that have been through this before. They know what it feels like to beat Glennwood and they know what it feels like to lose to Glennwood,” the coach added. “We want to win the region and this would be a big step in the right direction.”