Patriots to face Bessemer

Published 3:00 am Thursday, April 21, 2016

After narrowly escaping with a 2-1 series win over Hooper a week ago, the Pike Patriots look to continue their run in the AISA Class 3A State Playoffs when they take on Bessemer Academy this afternoon.

The Bulldogs struggled against Hooper last week; their offense lacked the big hit, leaving the pitching staff to lift them up on their shoulders. The Patriots put a heavy emphasis on hitting during practice this week.

“We probably had the best three days of practice that we had all year,” said Patriots head coach Allen Ponder. “When you have a series like we had in the first round when we didn’t hit the ball very well, we wanted to take a lot of batting practice this week to make sure we had confidence mainly in the batters box. Our confidence in the batters box seems to be building up a lot more.”

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The Patriots will travel to play the top-seeded Bessemer, and Ponder expects the change of field could be a factor.

“It’s always different when you go on the road,” Ponder said. “You don’t have that home crowd, so you really have to buckle down and play baseball.”

The Patriots will send Jarrett Jordan to mound and they hope he will be able to put some zeroes on the board and pitch deep into the game.

“Jarrett is always going to give us a bulldog performance,” Ponder said. “Nothing phases him, and he is going to go out there and give us his best effort.”

Bessemer had a bye in round one. The Patriots were able to defeat Bessemer 2-1 earlier in the year, but they know the post season will be different.

“Bessemer is a very athletic team,” Ponder said. “They are solid defensively, and they swing the sticks well and they have good arms. We understand that this is not going to be an easy series, and it’s going to take our best baseball to win.”

The Patriots never made it past the first round a year ago and the seniors are focused on continuing their run deep into the playoffs.

“Our seniors have done a great job this year,” Ponder said. “Our seniors want to leave their mark on the program. They understand that this is a program with great tradition. They understand want to leave their mark and legacy on this program. They are very motivated to go out and win and play their best baseball.”

Game one between Pike and Bessemer is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday with game two slated to begin 30 minutes after game one ends.