Looking at the baseball playoff picture
Published 4:21 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2016
By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor
The Alabama state baseball playoffs are rapidly approaching. Beginning on April 22 for classes 1A-6A and April 29 for the 7A classification, the last period of the 2015-16 prep sports calendar will begin to wind down. Last season Shelby County had representatives in the state finals for the 7A, 6A and 5A classes, and this year there are a number of teams with a chance to make a run as well. With the regular season winding down, let’s take a look at which teams are playoff bound, which still have some work to do, and which are going to have to wait a year for another chance at the playoffs.
First, some housekeeping. Only two teams from each area make the playoffs. Per the AHSAA, each team in each area must play each area opponent twice in the regular season, and the two teams with the best winning percentages in area games advance. If two area teams play more than two times during the regular season, then only the first regular season game at each home site will count in determining area winning percentage. This comes in to play most often when two teams play at one school once, then later in the year travel to the other school for a doubleheader. In that scenario, only the first game of that doubleheader counts when determining area winning percentage. Now let’s hit it.
1. Vincent. The Yellow Jackets have had 2A Area 9 clinched for over a week. 2A Area 9 only consists of three teams; Fayetteville and Thorsby being the other two along with the Yellow Jackets, meaning Vincent had one less area opponent to compete against than most for a playoff berth. The Yellow Jackets beat Thorsby twice in late March to clinch a playoff berth. Thorsby then split its series with Fayetteville, meaning the Yellow Jackets just had to beat the Tigers once to claim home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which they did on April 5. Vincent will host the runner-up from Area 10, Ranburne, in the first round of the 2A playoffs starting on April 22.
2. Briarwood. The Lions qualified for the playoffs this year before they ever played a game. Briarwood is in 6A Area 9 for baseball along with Homewood and Woodlawn, and Woodlawn does not have a baseball program, so by default both Homewood and Briarwood are advancing to the playoffs. The Lions beat Homewood on April 12 in the first meeting between the two, and will play the Patriots on April 14 at Homewood in the last game of the regular season for Briarwood as the Lions try to wrap up home field advantage in the first round.
3. Helena. The Huskies finished 5A Area 7 play undefeated at 6-0, winning each area game by an average score of 11-1 en route to the school’s first area title. Helena will host the runner-up from Area 8, which will either be Sylacauga or Clay Central, both of which finished 5-1 in the area.
Who has work left to do?
1. Montevallo. Technically, the Bulldogs have not locked up an area playoff berth yet, although they’re close. Montevallo is currently 3-1 in 4A Area 7 play, and have to play area opponent Holy Family twice on April 14 in their last leg of area games. However, in Holy Family’s four area games to date, the hapless Tigers have been beaten by a combined score of 89-2. As long as Montevallo beats Holy Family, which should not be a problem, the Bulldogs are in and have a chance to lock up home field advantage as well.
2. Oak Mountain. As of April 13, the Eagles were 1-2 in 7A Area 5 play. The Eagles lost to Hoover 3-0 on April 5, then lost the first game of an April 7 doubleheader by a 6-1 final, putting Oak Mountain in an 0-2 area hole. The Eagles bounced back with a win over Thompson at Thompson on April 12, and will host the Warriors on April 14 for a doubleheader. Only the first game will count for area purposes, and if Oak Mountain can win that game the Eagles will be back in the driver’s seat, and if they beat Tuscaloosa County twice next week will be in the playoffs no question.
3. Spain Park. Because the 7A areas don’t have to be determined until April 29, all of the 7A teams’ situations in the county are still up in the air, and Spain Park is no different. The Jags are 2-1 in 7A Area 6 play, having beaten Mountain Brook twice and lost to Vestavia once. Spain Park plays Vestavia for the second time on April 14 and will take on Hewitt-Trussville twice next week. How the Jags fare in those three games will determine whether or not the 2014 6A state champs make it back to the playoffs.
4. Thompson. The Warriors are in 7A Area 5 along with Oak Mountain, and the odds are slim that both will make the playoffs. Thompson, like Oak Mountain, is currently 1-2 in area play, having split an earlier season series with Tuscaloosa County before dropping the first of two games to the Eagles on April 12. Thompson will travel to Oak Mountain on April 14 for a crucial area game. If the Warriors beat Oak Mountain on the road tomorrow, they will be in great shape heading towards next week’s matchups with Hoover. If the Warriors get beat by Oak Mountain tomorrow, they will need to beat Hoover twice and get some outside help as well.
5. Pelham. Last season Pelham was the best team in the county. The Panthers were blessed with one of the best pitching staffs in the state as well as one of the best catchers in the country in Hunter Stovall, and steamrolled through the regular season. This Panther team has not had the same luck, limping out of the gate to a 1-8 start, and are just 9-21 as of April 13. However, the Panthers are 3-2 in 6A Area 8 play, and are just one win away from the playoffs. Pelham beat Jackson-Olin 15-4 on April 12, and if the Panthers can beat the Mustangs once more on April 14, Pelham will clinch another playoff berth.
Chelsea, Shelby County and Calera are all out of contention for a playoff berth.