Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

SHELLMAN -- Randolph Southern baseball coach Tommy Owen is telling his team they are as good as any other Class A team in the state.

And the 6-12 Patriots are buying it.

"We have in our minds that (our opponents) are the ones worried, not us," junior Grant Kimbrel said Tuesday as his team practiced for their upcoming GISA Elite 8 round of Class A State Tournament series against David Emanuel. "No matter what anybody says, you always have the potential to do your best. And you never know, you may shock some people along the way."

The No. 4 seed Patriots, who swept No. 1 seed Solid Rock in the opening round, are trying to shock doubters all the way to the Class A Final Four -- something that's at stake when they travel to play No. 3 seed David Emanuel (4-14) starting Friday as the teams face off in the first two games of their best-of-three series.

Game 1 of the Elite 8 series is at 1 p.m. Friday and will be immediately followed by Game 2. If necessary, Game 3 will be on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Making a deep run into the playoffs is nothing new for a handful of Patriots, who were on the 2009 team that won the Class A state title.

Those with championship experience include Kimbrel, who sees a resemblance between this year's team and the 2009 squad.

"Our state championship team had the idea that we were the best, and there wasn't anybody who was going to beat us," Kimbrel said. "We kind of have that. When it comes to playoff time we crank it up a notch."

It has been an up-and-down year for the Patriots, who won just four games in the regular season. However, Randolph now has a pair of postseason blowout wins -- and some confidence -- heading into this weekend's games. And a regular-season win against Region 3-A rival and state-championship contender Westwood gives the Patriots even more confidence.

Owen, a first-year coach who works full time as a crop dusting pilot, said his team is starting to peak at the right time.

"We don't look at the record," Owen said. "I don't think we have a player who knows any kind of offensive statistic this year ... nobody is worried about individual stuff."

Whether he knows his batting average or not, senior Jon Floyd is having quite the year at the plate. The George Wallace signee entered the post season with a .490 batting average, 21 RBI, six doubles and two triples, before lighting up the scoreboard against Solid Rock in the opening round with seven RBI and six runs scored.

"It's going to start with him," Owen said about his No. 3 hitter. "If we can get our leadoff hitters on base, Jon will score them."

The Patriots scored 41 runs in two games against a short-handed Solid Rock team, but the Randolph pitchers also did their job, shutting out Solid Rock in both contests.

Ace Daylon Blanton will get the start in Game 1 on Friday, followed by Kimbrel in Game 2. On Tuesday, Owen said he will be looking for Blanton to go at least five innings in the opener. Like Kimbrel, Blanton isn't an overpowering pitcher but will hit his spots and work the strike zone.

"He has a little bit of a curve ball," Owen said about Blanton, who he called "crafty.

"He is kind of a junk pitcher. He throws a little knuckle ball and curve ball, and he has a decent little fast ball."

Experience on the pitching staff drops off after Blanton and Kimbrel, which is why Owen said that hitting and fielding need to carry his team in the rest of the tournament. Fielding woes plagued the Patriots all year and led to several of their dozen regular-season loses. But the fielding has become steadier of late, and Owen knows he needs that trend to continue this weekend.

"I think it will come down to who plays the best defense," Owen said about his team's matchup with David Emanuel. "If we play good defense, I am confident in our offensive abilities that we will score runs."

David Emanuel is a team similar to Randolph -- small but capable of delivering a big blow. In the opening round, the Eagles lost Game 1 to John Hancock, 8-1, before capturing a 22-5 win in Game 2 and an 11-6 victory in Game 3.

"(David Emanuel) is a scrappy little team," Owen said. "If you let them hang around and play with you, they will start scoring runs and hang in the game."

The winner of this weekend's series will advance to the Final Four and face the winner of Crisp Academy and Westminster Christian.