Tigers hope to keep on keeping on

Published 7:02 pm Thursday, May 3, 2012

Like last year, Chilton County High School finds itself in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state baseball playoffs.

Eventual state champion Spanish Fort eliminated the Tigers at this point last year. So, what does Chilton need to do differently when a best-of-three series against Briarwood Christian begins on Friday?

In a word: nothing.

CCHS coach Josey Shannon wants his team to forget about the big picture and continue focusing on the strategy that has led to success all year, taking the game one pitch, one play, one inning and one game at a time.

“Our strength is to throw strikes, force contact and let the defense play,” Shannon said about the CCHS pitching staff. “On offense, it’s each guy that steps up there doing his job. Get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in.”

Fans that watch the games at Jack Hayes Field in Clanton can expect to see another disciplined team in the other dugout.

Briarwood is coached by Steve Renfroe, who led the Auburn University baseball program from 2001-04.

“They’re going to be competitive,” Shannon said. “We expect tough every game. Whoever we’re playing, we expect their best, so we know we’ve got to bring our best.”

The first two games of the series will be played at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday. If necessary, a third game is scheduled for noon on Saturday.

Chilton County can expect to see the Briarwood trio of Cameron Adams, Barnes Bankston and Will Brown on the mound. Those three have started 28 of Briarwood’s 34 games—and thrown 15 complete games.

Matthew Furuto leads the Lions (28-6) with a .415 batting average. Teammate Ben Craft is hitting .407.

Briarwood’s scouting report on CCHS (33-6) likely includes the line, “Don’t let Craig Headley beat you.”

Headley, Chilton’s catcher and 3-hole hitter, is batting above .600 on the year. Brookwood, CCHS’s second-round opponent, attempted to take the bat out of Headley’s hands, walking him anytime he came to the plate with an opportunity to do damage.

“If there’s a better hitter in the state, pound-for-pound, I’d like to see him,” Shannon said.

Brookwood intentionally walked Headley in a crucial situation in Game 3 of the series. With the bases loaded and the game tied, Trevor Thomas came through with a two-run double to the fence as the Tigers went on to win and advance.

Another player coming up big in the series against Brookwood was Sawyer Cahalane, who earned a rare start on the mound in Game 3, the most important game of the season to date.

Shannon said that is his squad’s secret to success: The players and coaches genuinely trust and care for each other. The Tigers are better when they’re playing for the whole team instead of just themselves, Shannon said.

“The relationships we have with one another,” he said, “I think that is a unique characteristic. We don’t want to disappoint each other.”