Playoffs: Patriots begin postseason

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The regular season has ended and the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots are gearing up for what they hope is a return trip to Montgomery.

The Patriots finished the regular season with a 20-10 overall record an area championship. After an opening round bye, the Patriots will match up with rival Fort Dale in a best-of-three series starting with a doubleheader this afternoon.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” said head coach Allen Ponder. “You hate to see the regular season come to an end, but at the same time it’s the fun part of the season, because it shows after it shows you the results after all the hard work you put in.”

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The Patriots had their fair share of ups and downs throughout the season, but after claiming the area championship, the Patriots not only earned a first-round bye, but home field advantage as well.

“It’s nice having the home field advantage,” Ponder said. “That’s an advantage for sure. For us, we did have an up and down season, but our team had the understanding as long we were playing our best baseball at the right time then good things were going to happen. I knew as long as we could instill that into our players, then good things could potentially happen for us.”

The Patriots come into the tournament winners of their last three games. Ponder believes his team isn’t doing anything different, but playing with more confidence than they did in the early stages of the season.

“We haven’t changed anything,” Ponder said. “I think for us, it’s been more of a confidence thing. I think our guys need the confidence of winning close games and the confidence of beating good teams. I think we did a better job of that late in the year. We won some close games and beat some good teams. I think the guys got the confidence that they were lacking in parts of the season.

“I think if the guys keep that confidence and keep playing the way we have been playing, then good things are going to happen for us in the playoffs.”

The Patriots have made it to the state championship in each of the last two seasons. After coming up just short in 2017, the Patriots won their first championship since 2012 in 2018.

Ponder has preached the importance of remaining hungry despite reaching the top last season and thanks to a strong influence by his seniors, the Patriots have remained eager to get back to Montgomery.

“Our senior class is going to go down as probably the winningest class in Pike history,” Ponder said. “I think the desire for them to get there is huge. I think they want to be that team. They want to be that team to have a chance at winning back-to-back state championship. Our seniors have been our leaders all season long and I think they are doing a great job right now at getting everybody else on board.”

The Patriots and Eagles have been rivals in every sport for many years. One thing that Allen and Ponder know about the Eagles is that they can’t take them lightly.

“Fort Dale is definitely not a team to overlook,” Ponder said. “Fort Dale has some good arms and they are a very scrappy baseball team. They play with a lot of energy. Like I have told our guys, we have to come out and match their energy and try to go above it.”

The Patriots and the Eagles will begin their doubleheader at 2 p.m. with game two to follow. If a third game is necessary it will be played on Friday.

“It’s very important to get off to a good start,” Ponder said. “You want to win that first game. That first game gives you confidence going into game two. We are going to go after game one and hopefully show up and play good baseball.”