Pike Liberal Arts begins defense of 2012 AISA AAA state title Thursday

Published 11:04 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dustin Newman delivers a pitch in practice for Pike Liberal arts on Tuesday. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

Dustin Newman delivers a pitch in practice for Pike Liberal arts on Tuesday. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots have been here before, and know what it takes to win the AISA AAA State Championship.

Pike opens its defense of the state crown on Thursday at Butch Austin Field in Troy against Escambia Academy. Austin, head coach of the Pats, has seen his fair share of post-season runs as a coach at Pike Liberal and at Charles Henderson High School.

Austin said that every coach has a routine they try to keep during playoff weeks.

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“We have worked on pitching, hitting and defense,” said Austin. “I think we will play better on Thursday than we have recently. Overall, I am satisfied where we are. We are in the playoffs for whatever year in a row it is. This group of kids is good.”

Pike captured the 2012 AISA AAA state title, but Austin feels the team faces a tougher competition this go around, citing Tuscaloosa Academy, Lee-Scott Academy and other teams will be tough in 2013.

“I believe that overall, the teams that are still in it, are better than the ones last year,” said Austin. “Tuscaloosa, Escambia, Lee-Scott, Macon, Glennwood are all great teams. They entire field is just better top to bottom than last season.”

Tuscaloosa Academy, currently second in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, is the popular pick to claim the AAA state title, but Austin said that when the Patriots play “their” game, they will be tough to beat.

Pike Liberal faced Tuscaloosa a couple of times this season, is ready for the opportunity if it arises in the future.

“If we play our game, we can play with anybody including Tuscaloosa,” said Austin. “It has been a strange type of year. We have missed some balls that we shouldn’t have, and got some that looked like we shouldn’t have got to. It all comes down to the next couple of weeks.”

Pike returns several players from last year’s championship squad, including Taytom Barnes, Chandler Avant, Brian Adams, Reid Dickey, Rush Hixon and Reid Dickey.

The returning faces will be big if the Pats are to repeat

“There is a lot of them that have been down this road before, and that will help our efforts quite a bit,” said Austin. “Chandler, Taytom and the rest of them are experienced in this same type of deal.”

Pike opens the playoffs on Thursday, after receiving a first-round bye following an area championship regular season title, against Escambia Academy.

Escambia finished in a tie for the runner-up spot in Region 2 with Ft. Dale. The Cougars claimed the spot with a sudden death 3-2 win over Ft. Dale. In the first round last weekend, Escambia swept Kingwood Christian.

First pitch for the second-round match up is slated for 4 p.m.