MONTGOMERY, Ala. – After spending the regular season on the road, winning three of their four playoff series’ on the road and knocking off the reigning state champions on their field, the Cullman Bearcats are headed back to the AHSAA State Championship Series for the fifth time in six years. The ‘Cats have compiled a 28-13 record to reach this stage of the postseason and have won 18 of their last 20 games.
Their most recent playoff victory came at Hueytown, where after falling behind 8-5 in the bottom of the sixth, they plated eight runs in the top of the seventh to take game one of the series. Dylon Wallace followed that up by tossing a complete game shutout in game two to propel Cullman into the 6A State Championship Series against Chelsea starting Thursday night at 7.
‘Cats head coach Brent Patterson has gotten a chance to check out the Hornets ahead of Thursday night’s matchup and sees a similar squad to his own that’s the playing its best ball of the season.
“I see a lot of similarities to us really. They’re playing extremely well right now and they just seem to be doing whatever it takes to win and obviously they’re on a roll,” Patterson said. “I know this is the first time they’re played for it so I’m sure there is a lot of excitement around their kids and their program so it should be a good series.”
Cullman has not had an explosive offense this season and despite some great pitching performances throughout the year, the Bearcats haven’t had a dominant ace like some teams have had in the past. Patterson believes this year’s team has fought to this point through sheer will and have come together to form a very solid, competitive unit.
“I really think its just been through competing. The guys are really competing hard, we’re trying to play clean games and obviously sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t. They’re human and they’re high school kids and they want to win so they’re doing everything they can do but the biggest thing they’re doing is competing so hard,” Patterson said. “It all falls back to that to tell you the truth. You’ve got some guys that it means the world to like the Dylon Wallaces, the Cooper Becks and Peyton Colvards and Blake Lamberts and some guys that aren’t out there doing these unbelievable things, they’re just competing. So, if I had to brag on anything in particular that we’ve been doing, we’ve been really competing hard.”
Cullman has been to Montgomery five times in the last six years but has only captured one blue map during that stretch. Patterson has seen teams finish with red maps and blue maps during his time with the Bearcats and some of the keys that he has found over the years are timely hitting and managing distractions.
“The teams that have been able to win it have gotten the big hits with runners in scoring position. That seems to be the deal. We’ve played well down there but haven’t always gotten the big hits and down there you have to get some hits with runners on. You’ve got to come through sometimes and I really believe it’s about timely hits,” Patterson said. “It’s so much fun, this is why you play. The town gets really excited, the school gets excited and there’s a lot of talk around the program but if you get caught up in the talk, you’re going to lose focus on the job at hand. So, I think the ability to see pass the distractions, focus on the things that win baseball games and execute the details will be extremely, extremely important.”
Cullman has spent all but three of its games this season on the road, but Patterson and his team have been impressed with the way the Bearcat faithful have traveled to support them throughout this postseason run.
“It’s been incredibly impressive and exciting to see these last few weeks since the playoffs started, how much fun its been with our crowd. At Hazel Green and at Hueytown our crowd was amazing, and our students and our community showed up and it was almost like a home game for our kids,” Patterson said. “It’s great to see them get that support and see how much it means to them. After the Hueytown game, half the talk from our kids was about how loud the fans were and to know that we have a community that supports us so much and gets excited and travels has been really big. We’re looking to have a big crowd in Montgomery too to help support the guys.”
The first pitch of the Bearcats’ state championship series against Chelsea is scheduled for Thursday night at 7 at Paterson Field. Game Two will be Friday at 4 p.m. at Riverwalk Stadium and game three will follow at 7 p.m. if necessary.
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