Eyes on the prize
So far this season, the Charles Henderson Trojans have experienced some extreme highs and extreme lows.
Both were experienced in last week’s quarterfinals match-up against Beauregard.
The Trojans came way with a series sweep over the Hornets, but it’s how they did it that was impressive.
After jumping out to a big lead in game one CHHS had to hold on for dear life to win the first game due to a late BHS charge.
In the second game, the roles were reversed, however, the Trojans were able to accomplish the comeback BHS was unable to do.
“The biggest thing, and something that was confirmed against Beauregard is that these guys fight back no matter the circumstances,” head coach Derek Irons said Thursday afternoon during the team’s final practice before the semi-finals.
“Beauregard is a great team and they hit us hard but we were able to get up off the deck and hit right back.
“That is something that gave us all a tremendous amount of confidence,” he added.
And now, CHHS finds itself just two wins away from heading back to the state championship game for the first time since 2008.
In the Trojans’ way is Spanish Fort, the Area 2 champion, who comes into the game with a 28-10 record.
The confidence Irons talked about is going to put to the test against a very talented team on the road, according to the coach.
“They got six guys on the mound that are very good and they hit one through nine – everyone in their lineup can hit the ball well.
“It is going to be a challenge for us, for sure,” Irons said.
One of the Toros’ pitchers, left-hander Patrick McGavin, signed with the University of Alabama earlier this year.
Like CHHS, the Toros have yet to lose a game in the playoffs, sweeping past Faith Academy, St. Paul’s and Shelby County.
Even though the Trojans face another tough test on the road, Irons believes his team is prepared for the task at hand.
“We have played a tough schedule all season long. We are prepared for this series because of the teams we have played in the regular season and in the postseason,” he said.
A big contributor for the Trojans is coming from a player who is in his first year with the varsity squad.
During the regular season, sophomore Jalin Lawson was a big part of the CHHS offensive attack, leading the team with 38 RBIs while batting .407.
But in the playoffs, Lawson has yet to slow down.
The third baseman is batting .600 in the postseason, with two home runs and eight RBIs going into semis.
“I am just working hard and learning as much as I can,” he said.
“(The playoffs) get harder every week, so I am just trying to stay focused on the things I need to do to help the team win.”
Another postseason surprise has come on the mound for the Trojans.
Harrison Reeves was a starter for CHHS during the regular season, posting an 8-0 overall record.
However, his role has changed a bit in the playoffs.
In the six wins so far, Reeves has turned from starter into the Trojans’ closer, collecting three saves including in back-to-back games last week against the Hornets, where the junior entered both games facing the go ahead run at the plate in the sixth inning.
Regardless of which inning he is pitching in, Reeves just wants to be on the mound.
“(Pitching) is my favorite thing to do in baseball,” he said. “I love the intensity of it.”
While the change from starter to closer maybe a little tough to swallow for some, Reeves said it hasn’t been a problem.
“When the game is on the line, you got to just focus and do your job – and that is what I have done. I like to be a part of big situations in game,” he said.
While Reeves has experienced a lot of success in the closer role, he said he still prefers being a starting and that is a role he may have to fill if the Trojans find themselves in game three.
Irons said that he has seen the same kind of change Lawson and Reeves have gone through in the playoffs with all his guys, despite the lack of playoff experience some may have.
“A lot of these guys have never been a part of a (playoff run) like this,” Irons said.
“They have seen other CHHS teams do it in 2004 and 2008 but this is kind of new for them, and they don’t seem to be overwhelmed at all.
“The playoffs are a different animal entirely (from the regular season) and I think the guys have responded to that and are more confidant in big games,” the coach added.
Like the previous three playoff series, CHHS will throw senior Mitch McLeod on the mound in game one.
McLeod has won each of his starts in the playoffs, two of which in complete games.
The probable starter for game two is Nathan Barron, who won the first two playoffs games he pitched in before getting a no-decision last week against Beauregard.
Game one will start at Spanish Fort tomorrow at 4 p.m. with the second game starting 30 minutes afterwards.