The Spalding Jaguars baseball team must prepare to face another team in the feline family, the Perry Panthers, Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at Jaguar Field. The Jags will have to be ready for this team, which has won six straight games and knows how to win on the road.
Perry (18-9) dispatched the homestanding Troup Tigers in two straight last Friday, 5-4, 4-2, to advance to the second round. The Panthers are the No. 3 seed out of Region 1-AAA.
The Region 4-AAA champion Jaguars (21-4) defeated the No. 4 seed Liberty County Panthers 8-4, 3-1 to advance to the second round for the first time in several years.
Spalding lost in the first round in 2008.
Jags head coach Mickey Moody said his team is in store for a battle.
“They have two left-handed pitchers and they’re good offensively,” he said. “But if we play the way we’re capable of playing, I like our chances.”
The four seniors on Spalding - catcher/pitcher Travis Lee, pitcher/infielder Cameron Scott, outfielder John McGhee and infielder Chad Bennett - said they are ready to play Perry.
“We have a little history with them. Perry was in our region since our freshman year,” Lee said.
“We beat them for the region title as freshmen, but they knocked us out of state during our sophomore year, so we’re looking to get a bit of payback,” Scott said.
Bennett and McGhee weren’t on the varsity as freshmen and sophomores, so they cherish their first region title very much, relishing the pressure of trying to win at home.
“Winning the region title and playing at home is good pressure,” McGhee said. “It gives us a lot of incentive to perform.”
Bennett also enjoys having to play at home in the state playoffs.
“We’ve been pretty good at home this season, which is a big reason why we’re region champs,” Bennett said.
All four seniors believe if they play well, good things are in store for the Jags.
“If our hitting, pitching and defense is clicking, we’re pretty hard to beat,” McGhee said.
The Jags didn’t hit the ball all that well against Liberty County in the second game, but they were mentally tough enough to get the big hits, even though it took them until the ninth inning.
“We did what we had to do,” Lee said.
Should Spalding win this best-of-three series, it will face the Riverwood vs. Oconee County winner on May 19. If Oconee County wins, Spalding will be the host team for the third straight series. If Riverwood, a No. 1 seed from Region 5, defeats Oconee, it will be designated as the home team next Tuesday.