Well, the unofficial Talladega County baseball champions will be crowned Thursday.
Sylacauga, which won the Class 4A-5A county tournament, will take on Fayetteville, winner of the 1A-3A tournament, in a doubleheader at 4 p.m. at Fayetteville High.
“It is going to be a good matchup,” Fayetteville head coach Morris Phillips said. “Sylacauga is a really good team. Hopefully, we can give them a run for their money. Hopefully, we can hang in there and make it a good game and good series.”
Sylacauga first-year head coach Jeff Bell said his squad is prepared to play a very good Fayetteville team.
“As I learned in Tuscaloosa County over the last few years, just because somebody plays in a smaller classification doesn’t mean that they are not good,” Bell said. “You don’t go to the state finals if you are not good. I know they have a good team, so we are prepared to play a good team. We are certainly not overlooking them by any stretch just because we have more students in the hallways.”
Fayetteville (7-3) cruised past Central Coosa and Talladega County Central in the county tournament, but the Wolves had to come from behind to defeat B.B. Comer 10-9. Philips learned a lot about his team during that victory.
“They don’t give up and they have a lot of heart,” Phillips said. “They are not going to go down without a fight, and I think that about these guys. We could’ve very easily rolled over after giving up seven or eight runs in the first inning. They could have easily given up, but instead, they battled back.”
Sylacauga (6-0) dominated the big school tournament last week at Munford High. The Aggies defeated Childersburg 13-1 and also defeated Munford twice, including a 13-3 victory in the championship game.
Bell said he is pleased with the way his team is playing.
“Every day is a new day, we are not going to rest on our lows and we are not going to take anybody lightly moving forward,” Bell said. “We show up every day and play the game. We are not playing an opponent, we are playing the game. That’s how they sort of approached everything. They are playing very well right now. I have no complaints. They show up every day and work”
Fayetteville lost several key players from last season’s team that finished as the runner-up in 2A. The Wolves have several underclassmen stepping up in key positions.
“This team is a young team compared to last year,” Phillips said. “Last year, we had five seniors; this year, we have to fill those roles of those guys that left us. Having to replace five guys is a hard thing to do. This crew has been stepping up to the task so far. They are battling hard, and I have to give them credit. They are not lying down because they are a young team. They are battling and competing.”
The Aggies return the majority of their team from last season team that underachieved by Sylacauga standards. The Aggies finished 9-11 and did not make the postseason.
The Aggies are already close to exceeding their win total from a year ago a month into the season. Bell set several lofty goals for his ballclub.
“I would like to join our basketball team in the (state) finals and, hopefully, win the whole thing,” Bell said. “The first goal for me every year is to get to the playoffs. That’s the most fun three or four weeks of the season, you never know when your last game is. That is the first goal, and to do that we have to win the area or be runner-up.
“Goal No. 2 is win the area, and that is going to be really hard to do because I think all four teams in the area are good. I think, historically, Briarwood has separated themselves as the class in the league around here. I’ll tell you what though, our kids are not scared to go up there and play them. I know that. Most of the goals that I set all have to do with the playoffs and playoff runs. Getting in is the first priority, and staying in is next.”
Phillips said his team must play a clean game on defense to have a chance to defeat the Aggies.
“We are going to have to play error-free baseball,” Phillips said. “That has been our Achilles’ heel lately, making some errors. We have to make the routine plays and not boot it as much. Hopefully, we will be able to score a run or two.”
Solid pitching and strong defense have helped the Aggies get off to a good start this season. Bell said his team will have to do those two things if it is going to win at Fayetteville.
“The recipe so far has been get ahead of hitters, throw strikes and make plays behind him,” Bell said. “Then when you get your opportunities at the plate, you have to take advantage of them, and so far, we have been able to do that. We have struggled in the middle innings when pitchers adjust to us -- we have not done a very good job of adjusting to them. We did a lot better Tuesday night against Jemison (11-1 victory), so hopefully, we will build on that.”