Infielders go to the infield and head coach James Blanchard hits them ground balls. Outfielders, you guessed it, take to the outfield where assistant Matt Deerman hits them fly balls.
It’s not as famous as the Tom Emanski defensive drills videos, but it has help produced back-to-back-to-back series victories for the Bulldogs in this postseason. They host No. 7 Plainview in the Class 3A state semifinals Friday.
This marks the Bulldogs’ (27-9-1) first appearance in the state baseball semifinals in school history.
“It’s helped us because we get more one-on-one,” junior Dillon Terry said. “We don’t have to sit and wait on the infield to do what they’ve got to do. So it just helps us out to get more reps and get better.”
Terry, along with Cass McCord and Trevor Ford, has combined to form an impressive outfield unit.
McCord, a rangy center fielder, has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Terry, the Bulldogs’ right fielder, and Ford, who mans left field, aren’t too far off their teammates’ pace with .940 and .947 fielding percentages.
“With those guys back there and our infield, it’s hard to drop one in on us,” Blanchard said. “I wish I had a highlight tape of all the plays they’ve made.”
Cass has started at center the past two seasons while Ford has also platooned in the infield. Terry has been full time in the outfield after pitching last season.
“The three out there now have been starting for at least two years,” Ford said. “I’ve been starting for two in the outfield. So I believe that we’ve been playing together and we’ve got good chemistry out there right now.”
McCord and Ford are the unit’s speed demons with the wheels to play up and chase balls hit over their heads. What Terry lacks in swiftness he makes up for with his ability to read the ball off the bat and get a jump on it.
Blanchard recalled one play from their 2-0 sweep of Winfield in the quarterfinals when Ford erased what would’ve been a sure double, if not a triple, running down a ball for a catch. McCord also made a couple nice grabs in Game 2 of that series before Cade Bradley’s homer in the top of the seventh catapulted them to a victory and a series sweep.
It was the type of play Blanchard has come to expect from his defense.
His pitching staff is led by Bradley and Joel Ray.
Bradley is 8-2 with an even 2.00 earned run average. He’s struck out 67 batters and given up 18 earned runs on 47 hits while walking 39. Ray is 12-2 with a 1.76 ERA. He’s struck out 96, given up 21 earned runs on 64 hits and walked 20.
Bradley also leads the Bulldogs offensively, batting .427 with six home runs and 27 RBIs on 50 hits. Landon Pruitt is batting .355 with a homer and 22 RBIs. Ray is batting .343. He’s gone yard three times and has driven in 23 runs.
Plainview (36-5) defeated Lauderdale County two games to one to advance to the semifinals. The Bears downed Carbon Hill and Madison Academy in the first two rounds.
“We gotta hit the ball real well. We gotta get some good pitching out of Cade and Joel. We gotta play the field real well,” McCord said.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.