CULLMAN, Ala. – For the 20th consecutive season, the Cullman Bearcats are preparing for the second round of the state playoffs and their series with Chelsea at Bill Shelton Field will be packed with history. Before game one Friday, Cullman’s 2002 State Championship team will be honored and once the ceremony ends, today’s Bearcats will turn their attention to the Hornets, who put them out in the second round just a season ago.
The ‘Cats secured their spot in round two with a pair of wins at Shades Valley in round one. Cullman hammered the Mounties 19-1 in game one and put them away 13-7 in game two to advance. Runs have been hard to come by for the Bearcats at times this season but after erupting for 32 runs in the opening round, Head Coach Brent Patterson hopes that performance will spark their bats as they continue their postseason run.
“I was pleased with the way we went down there and barreled up a lot of balls. I thought guys had pretty good at bats in both games when the game was still in doubt. They weren’t really giving us a lot and we were barreling balls up, so I was pleased with that, and you always have to have something that gets you going,” Patterson said. “It’s no secret that we’ve struggled offensively all year and obviously it’s a lot harder to score runs in the playoffs anyway so its not like we’re going out and expecting to score 19 but you need to give your pitchers a chance. So, I hope that’s a little spark and create some momentum that will carry over but, in the end, we know it’s going to pitching and defense that wins games and we just need to get timely hits.”
Friday’s meeting will be a rematch of last year’s second round battle between Cullman and Chelsea and the Bearcats are hungry for another shot at the Hornets. The ‘Cats fell to Chelsea in three games on the road last season and Patterson knows his team will be excited to play them again this week so the focus in their preparation this week has been about playing within themselves and building on their experience.
“I think you just stick to your routine, and you go out there and understand that we’re not really playing against our opponent, we’re playing against the game. You’ve got to go throw strikes; you’ve got to have good at bats, you’ve got to make routine plays and you have to play with passion and enthusiasm,” Patterson said. “Obviously that part usually isn’t hard in the playoffs so sometimes it’s about learning to control that passion and enthusiasm and trying to harness it. You’ve got to play within yourself and part of that is experience. We’ve got some guys that went through that last year, and they saw good, and they saw bad so we just have to learn from the bad so we can have more of the good.”
The ’Cats and Hornets will begin game one at 4:30 p.m. Friday but before the game at 4 p.m. the 2002 State Champion Cullman Bearcats will be honored at Bill Shelton Field 20 years after bringing the first blue map to Cullman High School. Since winning that first state title in 2002, the Bearcats have brought home four more state championships (2007, 2008, 2015 & 2019) and finished as state runner-up seven times (2003, 2004, 2005, 2011, 2014, 2016 & 2017). Patterson was an assistant on Head Coach Bryan Bowen’s staff in 2002 and he’s excited to see one of the groups that did so much to lay the foundation of Cullman Baseball receive the recognition they deserve.
“You really can’t put into words how important the guys who have come before us are. Even for that 2002 group, they can point back to the Class of 2000 that didn’t get to play a home game and sacrificed their home season to get a field and a stadium built so that teams following them would have something special. So, I look back at every group, and obviously this 2002 group is kind of some of the founding fathers of the program. They did something that to a lot of people around here seemed impossible and they went out and got it done,” Patterson said. “So, to have Coach (Bryan) Bowen and those guys coming back is great. It got canceled once because of weather so a lot of them aren’t going to be able to make the trip that they were going to make the first time but to be able to honor those guys will be great. I think it’s a super important thing that we do to make sure that we connect the different generations of our program.”
Game one will be Friday at 4:30 p.m. with game two to follow. Game three will be Saturday if necessary.
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