Crisp County junior pitcher Stewart Tyler is expected to start Game 1 of the Class AAAA semifinals against Alexander today. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
CORDELE — During Crisp County’s baseball run this season, the Cougars have needed a third-game victory in each of their best-of-three series to advance to the next round.
That’s not the ideal way Crisp coach Bill Pate would like it, but he has grown accustomed to it.
As Crisp County enters the state semifinals today against Alexander, it will mark the second straight season the Cougars have made the Final 4. And unlike last year when it was swept by powerful Marist, Crisp hopes to make history by beating Alexander.
A victory would put Crisp into the baseball finals for the first time since 1961 when the Cougars won the school’s only state title in any sport.
The best-of-three series begins with a doubleheader at 4:30 p.m., followed by a third game if needed on Tuesday.
Crisp hopes to get off to a quick start against Alexander. In the past two series against Walnut Grove and West Laurens, Crisp has lost Game 1, then rallied to win the second and third games.
“That seems to be the deal,” Pate said of needing to win the third and deciding game. “We seem to have one game where we are not able to do anything right, then we get a little pressure on us and we go to work.”
Junior Witt Campbell, who has been primarily the Game 3 starter in the postseason this year, said needing a third game hasn’t been a bad thing.
Last season, the Cougars either swept or got swept in the playoffs.
“Going to a third game prepares us and helps us play more together as a team,” he said.
Crisp will face a red-hot Alexander team that finished as the third seed from the rugged Region 5-AAAA, a region that is usually dominated by Columbus High and Carrollton. Alexander, also nicknamed the Cougars, have played all three of its series on the road.
Alexander hasn’t slowed down since upsetting Region 6 champion Marist in the second round. Alexander lost the first game to Wayne County last Tuesday, then used a no-hitter from senior Nick Wise to win Game 2, 4-0. The Cougars then exploded for 13 runs in the third game to oust Wayne.
Alexander is making its deepest run into the postseason. In 2001, the Cougars were led by current Cleveland Indian reliever Matt Capps. They lost to Greenbrier in the quarterfinals.
“And we’re not just happy to be here,’’ Alexander coach Chris Brown told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Coming into this season, I thought we had a chance to compete for a state championship. I don’t think anybody could’ve predicted the drama that has come along with our season. But I’m not complaining.’’
A key ingredient for Crisp’s success has been due to its pitching rotation. Stewart Tyler, Taylor Walls, Campbell and junior lefty Logan Carter have thrown the bulk of the innings.
Pate said Campbell has been strong in his outings. Campbell is also quarterback on the football team.
“He’s one of those who — because of his football experience — brings some mental toughness,” Pate said. “He’s one of those who is like, ‘Coach give me the ball.’ Then he has gone out there and taken care of business.”
Taking care of business is something Crisp hopes to do in its first two games today.