Demopolis, Eufaula meet tonight in first round of 5A playoffs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; A season of ups and downs has finally led the Tigers to the circumstances for which they have clamored all season long, playoff baseball.

Now that his team faces the potential conclusion of its season with each game it plays, DHS coach Ben Ramer is hopeful it has learned valuable lessons from some of its hard-luck losses throughout the year.

Those little things Ramer refers to proved difficult for a Tiger squad that opened its season at 3-11 before going 9-5 the rest of the way to earn its way to today&8217;s contest.

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Perhaps the strongest indicator of that fact came during last week&8217;s action. The Tigers blew a 3-0 lead against 5A&8217;s top team, Bibb County, in the fifth inning Wednesday before performing an encore act that consisted of failing to plate the winning run despite loading the bases with only one out.

While some teams would view pushing the No. 1 team in the state to the ninth inning as a moral victory, that sentiment did not seem to set well with the Tigers.

Evidence of the team&8217;s growth came quickly as the Tigers found themselves in a similar situation the following night. After blowing a 3-0 lead to Greenville in the fifth inning of last Thursday&8217;s defacto area title game, the Tigers again loaded the bases late in the game, this time managing to plate three runs and clinch the victory.

If the Tigers are to survive until next week, it will have to come at the expense of a formidable ball club that has seen its own turnaround in recent years.

Eufaula is hoping to get its first playoff victory since 2002 when it defeated Brookwood 12-2. In order to do so, they figure to rely heavily on their strength, pitching.

While Eufaula&8217;s top starter, right-handed Desmond Thomas, has battled a strained groin late in the season, he figures to pitch one of today&8217;s games. Eufaula was encouraged by Thomas&8217; one inning of work on the mound and subsequent appearances at shortstop and second base during Tuesday&8217;s season-ending contest.

Thomas will likely start game one to be followed by Bill Hamrick in game two. If necessary, James 1Hunter is probable to round out the trio of right-handers Demopolis will face in the series.

To counter, Demopolis will most probably run out some combination of Shelby Speegle and Scott Cannon tonight. If necessary, Ramer will be left to choose from a handful of candidates to start Saturday&8217;s game three, headlined by Rob Rorie and John Mackey. Today&8217;s games begin at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. If needed, Saturday&8217;s game three is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Andy Brown of The Eufaula Tribune contributed to this report.