PREP BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: Bearcats preparing for semifinal battle at No. 1 Oxford

Cullman will travel to Oxford Wednesday night to battle the Yellow Jackets in the Class 6A State Semifinals. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Bearcats topped Mortimer Jordan on the road in round one, swept Athens in round two and took a thrilling, three-game series over Gardendale to advance past round three. Now, Cullman will face its toughest test yet traveling to face No. 1 Oxford in the 6A semifinals Wednesday night. The Yellow Jackets are unbeaten in postseason play, having swept Center Point, Mountain Brook and Hartselle to advance to the semifinals and ‘Cats head coach Brent Patterson knows it’ll take a great effort from his team to topple the top-ranked Yellow Jackets.

“Oxford looks like we’re watching a JUCO team. They are athletic at every single position. They hit for power and for average all throughout their lineup. They oftentimes run out seven left-handed hitters and there are no real breaks in the lineup. They have incredible depth on the mound so beating one guy doesn’t do much for you because they have so many more who are capable of shutting good offenses down,” Patterson said. “They have power righties with electric secondary stuff, and they have lefties that can neutralize an offense with their ability to change speeds and locate so well. Above everything else, their team speed is almost unheard of at the high school level so they can take advantage of any mistakes a defense might make. Combine all that with being very well-coached and you see why this is a tall task for us this week.”

One advantage that the Bearcats are taking to Oxford is leadership and experience. Patterson has enjoyed watching his veteran squad develop throughout the year and knows that no matter the situation, his guys will have the right attitude and mindset in the dugout and on the field.

“These seniors have grown so much since we first assembled the team last summer. They’re hungry and have wanted to take the program back to this level of competition. They’re an extremely humble group who love to share credit and they’ll accept responsibility when they make mistakes. There isn’t much finger pointing and excuse making that goes on. Coaching people like that is very enjoyable because they actually want coaches’ opinions and guidance,” Patterson said. “Above all else, the chemistry on this team is its number one quality. It’s directly related to the close friendships they share with each other and that goes a long ways when you spend so much time together. Great chemistry makes otherwise impossible tasks attainable when everyone is moving in the same direction with a common goal. These guys are really smart. They know when to joke on someone and when to encourage them. They understand when to laugh and when to get serious. Needless to say, it’s a very fun group to coach.”

Regardless of what happens this week, Patterson is already proud of the mark this senior class has made on the program and is grateful for the opportunity to spend more time coaching them.

“These seniors have sacrificed a lot for the program. They accepted the responsibility of being the face of the program and they have held each other accountable so that guys represent the program in a positive way both on and off the field,” Patterson said. “They’re very self-motivated and show up basically every single day with a focused energy because they have such high expectations for themselves. They want to represent our program, our school, and our community in a way that reflects the winning tradition the guys before them fought so hard to create. We coaches couldn’t ask for a more determined, motivated, or selfless group to take the field with every day. It’s an absolute pleasure.”

Game one of the Class 6A semifinals will begin Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Oxford with game two to follow. Game three will be Thursday at 5 p.m. if necessary.

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