Weston King led the way with his arm and his bat last week against Arlington Christian in the first round of the GISA Class AAA state playoffs, and he will look to do the same today in the Elite 8 against Pinewood. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — They may remember the spring break pact at Deerfield-Windsor for years to come.
After a 2-2 start to the season, the Knights’ seniors agreed in early April something needed to be done if another deep playoff run was in the cards.
“We obviously had to turn it around at some point, somehow,” said senior catcher Gil Gillespie of the talk following a Region 1-AAA opening loss to Southland. “On spring break we said we wouldn’t lose anymore.
“And we haven’t.”
There may be no hotter GISA Class AAA team in the state than the Knights, winners of 12 in a row after an unbeaten month of April. Once 2-2, the Knights are now 21-3 overall and the hosts of the Elite 8 best-of-three state playoff series beginning today against Pinewood Christian. Game 1 of today’s doubleheader will begin at 4 p.m. with a second game at 7 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for Saturday at noon.
This is the same team that started slow, only now there’s a lot more confidence flowing within the dugout.
“Their mannerisms on a daily basis are very consistent from the beginning of the year until now,” said Knights head coach Rod Murray, who has taken DWS to the state title game twice in his five seasons at the helm. “They lean on one another, and we’ve learned to do things better.”
Outside of the senior agreement not to lose again, the Knights have hit and pitched better than many thought they would after losing a slew of all-state players off last season’s state runner-up team.
“They talked about this year being a rebuilding year,” senior outfielder Tyler Cook said. “We kind of showed everybody (different). We started the season and didn’t know who was where, (and) we were worried about our pitchers at first.”
The pitching has been fine, though, with juniors Austin Murphy and Weston King throwing gems in last week’s first-round playoff series win. Murphy will start Game 1 today against
Pinewood righthander Taylor Lewis, a 6-foot senior with a lively fastball.
“Lewis runs it up there really hard,” Murray said. “He’s thrown some great games over on that side of the state. He’s just a power pitcher that showcases his fastball and complements it with a slider and a little change.”
Pinewood (16-9, GISA Region 4-AAA No. 2 seed) is trying to become only the second team to put the Knights out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals in Murray’s five years. Deerfield’s old nemesis Tattnall Square was the other team to do it, and the Trojans may await in the semis.
The Deerfield-Pinewood winner advances to play the winner of the Tattnall Square-Loganville Christian series next week. If DWS and Tattnall, who split during the regular season, both win this weekend, that series would be played in Macon. The Knights have played on the road in a playoff series only twice in the last five years, both times coming last season.
But first the Knights need to take care of business against Pinewood if they want another shot at their first state title since 2003, although they’ve been to the championship series three times in the past eight seasons only to come up short (Tattnall twice, Westfield once).
“We’re due,” senior third baseman Lindsey Short said.
The blank row at the bottom of the Knights’ state baseball title sign, just itching to add another year, agrees.