PREP BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: Cold Springs, Cullman gearing up for round 2

Cold Springs’ Brodee Bartlett (left) and Cullman’s Hunter Brooks (right) will help lead their respective teams in the second round of the state playoffs this Friday. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

BREMEN, Ala. – The Cullman Bearcats are used to playing in the second round of the state playoffs. They defeated Hazel Green in a game three Saturday to punch their ticket to round two for the 19th consecutive season but this season they’ll be joined by the Eagles of Cold Springs who are advancing to the second round for the first time in school history after defeating North Sand Mountain in round one.

The Eagles took game one over the Bison 11-6 Friday and after dropping game two 12-3, Cold Springs bounced back Monday with a 5-3 win at North Sand Mountain. Now, the Eagles will turn their attention to Westbrook Christian. The Warriors are ranked No. 2 in Class 2A and have put together a record of 21-7 this season behind some very talented arms, including LSU commit Samuel Dutton. Eagles Head Coach Wesley McSwain knows Westbrook will be bringing some strong arms to Cold Springs Friday and he and his team are trying to get as much work in this week as they can to prepare.

“Westbrook has a really strong pitching staff from what I have gathered. As far as series prep we haven’t changed anything about how we practice,” McSwain said. “We’re just trying to get in as many swings and as much field work as possible right now. It’s not everyday you see speed like that.”

McSwain likes the way the Eagles are pitching and defending it right now but knows that they will have to put together some quality at bats and compete to get runners on base.

“We are pitching and playing well in the field right now. I think for us to have the best opportunity to win we just need to keep hitting our spots pitching and playing solid defense,” McSwain said. “We need to have quality at bats and step up to the plate with determination to do whatever it takes to get on base.”

The Bearcats had a similar round one experience to Eagles. Cullman took game one over Hazel Green comfortably 12-1 but dropped game two 4-1. The ‘Cats got back on the field for game three and eliminated the Trojans 13-7 to secure their spot in round two. Cullman will now have to put that series behind them and refocus for a tough road trip to Chelsea this Friday. The Hornets have a strong pitching staff as well, led by Alabama commit Connor Ball, and Bearcats Head Coach Brent Patterson knows it’ll take a great approach at the plate to get runs on the board.

“We just want to keep trying to give our offense a chance by focusing and staying balanced and complete. Their arms are great, and they really know how to pitch,” Patterson said. “We have to understand that we’ll have failures, and we just have to keep competing and see how it looks after the last out. They won’t give us anything at all so we can’t be waiting on them to help us, we’ll have to earn everything we get.”

Any team can fall at any time in the postseason and Patterson wants to see his team grow more comfortable competing in a playoff atmosphere. This Friday night is set to be as fun an atmosphere as any other when the 3rd ranked ‘Cats arrive to take on the 7th ranked Hornets.  

“The biggest takeaway should be just how difficult it is to win games in the playoffs. We can’t get full of ourselves if we take a lead and we sure can’t get our feelings hurt if we fall behind. You win games one pitch at a time so we can’t try to do too much,” Patterson said. “Each guy has a job to do, and we just have to stay focused on that. Playoff atmospheres are fun to play in. We just have to have guys get comfortable being in those situations. Matchups like this are why you work all year to give yourself the best chance to be successful. They’ve got a great team and we’re looking forward to it.”

Cullman and Cold Springs’ first games will both begin Friday at 4:30.

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