“Last year is over — it’s a new season with new challenges,” said Jags head coach Mickey Moody. “Don’t get me wrong, last year was exciting and fun and it was a great memory. Everything went our way, including some luck. But it’s 2012 now and we’ve got to focus on winning the last game we play.”
The next game No. 1 seed Spalding (19-6) will play will be a best-of-three, first-round state playoff series against the No. 4 seed Westside-Augusta Patriots (17-9) starting with Game 1 Friday at 2 p.m. at Jaguar Field. Game 2 will start 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. If the two teams split Friday, the third and deciding game will be Saturday at 1 p.m., also at Jaguar Field.
The winner of this series faces the winner between No. 2 seed Carrollton and No. 3 seed Riverwood on May 9.
Moody said the series with Westside should be a good one.
“Westside is a quality opponent; they play hard and they will fight all the way,” he said. “I’ve got great respect for their coach Gerald Barnes. He’s got 750-plus wins in his career and he even coached against Griffin High in the 1980 state finals. I’m looking forward to a competitive series.”
Moody said the Patriots have guys who can “swing the bats well and are fundamentally sound.” The key for the Jags is to keep up the good work they’ve been doing in the latter part of the season.
“Now that the playoffs are here, we have got to throw strikes, make the routine plays and hit the ball as best we can,” Moody said. “We’ve gotten better at all that lately. We struggled with errors early and we still managed to win. We had a couple of hiccups against East Coweta and Eastside, but we’ve been playing well since that loss to Eastside.”
Moody has a point. Since the Jags lost 7-4 at home to Eastside on April 9, they’ve won 6 of their final 7 games, including outscoring Region 4-AAA foes Jackson, Eagle’s Landing and Stockbridge in succession by a combined score of 41-4 and clinching the region title with a 4-1 road win over a set of Patriots — the ones from Sandy Creek — on April 19. Even in their 5-3 loss in the regular-season finale to No. 3 state-ranked Crisp County, the Jags held a 3-2 lead late in the contest.
“We’ve worked hard since last fall to get to this position — now it’s one pitch at a time and one game at a time,” Moody said.
The Jags are still formidable at the plate, even though their viable stats are down from 2011 due to the use of the new bats all high school teams in the state have been using this year, which don’t allow the ball to travel as far like in years past. The Jags are led by shortstop Matt Hayes’ 5 home runs, followed by 4 from second baseman Casey Moody and other players chipping in with a few homers here and there.
The Jags are capable of getting runs in bunches if pitching isn’t solid, however. They’ve scored double-digit runs in 8 of their 25 games and scored 9 runs twice this season.
“As seniors this year, we still have a chip on our shoulders from losing to Columbus in the state finals last year. We really want it this year,” said Jags senior infielder Robert Green. “We’ve just got to play our ‘A’ game every time in these playoffs.”