Tough regular-season schedule appears to be paying off for Alexandria
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Apr 26, 2012 | 3476 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ALEXANDRIA — Alexandria seems right on schedule again in the Alabama High School Athletic Association baseball playoffs.

Nope, that 19-15 record won’t overwhelm anyone, but then the Valley Cubs have a way of going deep in the playoffs with a less-than-overwhelming record.

A year after sweeping Childersburg in the second round, Alexandria hopes to do it again Friday on the road.

“We played a good series last week against Lincoln, and I hope we’re coming back at the right time,” Alexandria coach Andy Shaw said. “We always like to talk about, ‘Well, we’re still playing in May.’

“I hope that happens this week, but we have a tough test with Childersburg.”

The Valley Cubs start their best-of-3 Class 4A series at Childersburg with a Friday doubleheader, starting at 4 p.m. The if-necessary game would be Saturday at noon.

Alexandria reached the second round via a first-round sweep of Lincoln, winning 13-2 and 5-3.

The Valley Cubs entered the playoffs with a 17-15 record, but doesn’t that sound familiar? They were 19-12 going into the playoffs a year ago and beat Munford and Childersburg en route to a three-round run.

Two years ago, Alexandria squeaked into the playoffs with a 14-16 record and wound up playing all the way to the Class 4A finals in Montgomery, losing to powerhouse UMS-Wright.

Along the way, they swept Haleyville, Jacksonville and Guntersville then won two of three against Deshler, coming back from a 17-7 loss in the first game.

With that playoff run, Alexandria finished 22-19.

Yes, we’ve seen this movie, and the Valley Cubs stand one series away from Playing in May sequel.

It’s not their playoff results that are deceptive. It’s their record, which usually reflects Shaw’s philosophy of playing a brutal non-area schedule.

“We’ve played Spanish Fort, Buckhorn and, of course, Oxford,” Shaw said about Alexandria’s schedule this year. “All of those are still in (the playoffs) in 5A or 6A.

“We played LAMP, which is in the 3A playoffs, and, of course, Piedmont has got a great team. We’ve played Foley, Cullman, Southside --- all of these teams (except Foley, a 6A team) still left in the playoffs right now.

“We hope that benefits us, also, so we can go a few rounds in this thing.”

Obviously, the benefits of scheduling that way come in the playoffs.

“It puts us in situations that, now, that we’ll get put in, and we’ll be used to it since we’ve played such harder teams,” said senior pitcher Justin Bowen (4-1, 2.46 ERA), Alexandria’s Game 1 starter Friday. “When you play those harder teams, you can’t make the mistakes that, like, in the playoffs, if you make, it can cost you the game.”

Shortstop Tyler Burr, the Valley Cubs’ offensive leader with a .364 batting average and two of their three home runs in the first season of BBCOR bats, said scheduling helps them peak at the right time.

“A lot of teams come in, and they get hot midway through the season because they don’t play good competition,” he said. “We like to play good competition, because, that way, we get hot when the playoffs start.”

Left fielder Justice Owens checks in with a .356 batting average, and catcher Jacob Whiting hits .320.

On the mound, senior Ty Whaley (5-4, 2.10) would be the second game starter, and junior newcomer Tanner Wells (4-5, 1.81) would be the Saturday starter.

Wells also has one save, and the Valley Cubs can turn to veteran Logan Doss and Ethan Curvin in relief. Doss, who also plays first base, was a playoff hero on the mound two years ago.

Childersburg (22-9), led by center fielder Chase Smith, a Southern Union pickup, reached the second round by winning two of three games against Cleburne County.

“They’re a lot like us,” Shaw said. “They play great ball, very fundamental. They swing the bats pretty well. Pitching is very good.

“Whoever makes the most mistakes is going to lose.”

Shaw hopes that scheduling has prepared the Valley Cubs for just such a scenario.

“Baseball is a game of failure,” Shaw said. “It’s just how you handle failure.

“There are going to be teams that are just better than us and bigger than us. Sometimes, we’ll sneak up on them. Sometimes, we won’t, and we just go out there to try to play a better brand of baseball by the time the playoffs come.”

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or jmedley@annistonstar.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.

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