Sweet Water eyes Maplesville in first round

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SWEET WATER — Kevin Byrd likes where his team is as it heads into Friday’s first-round clash with Maplesville.

“I think the last two weeks of the season, we were playing probably the best we’ve played,” the Bulldog head coach said. “We’re probably the best we’ve been confidence wise.”

Sweet Water (13-10), which had won seven consecutive games prior to a 4-3 extra-inning loss at Demopolis, clinched the AHSAA, Class 1A Area 5 title two weeks ago before continuing its hot streak against a high level of competition the following week.

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“It’s really big with us beating Clarke County,” Byrd said of the SWHS win over 4A’s then No. 8 team. “Then we turned around and 10-runned Millry and then played really well against Demopolis. Before Demopolis beat us, we’d won seven straight.”

Part of Byrd’s confidence in his team comes from the level of competition it has faced throughout the regular season. the Bulldogs’ schedule has included 4A powers Clarke County and Thomasville as well as 5A Demopolis.

“We’ve faced some teams that are better than anything we’re going to see in 1A,” Byrd said.

The Bulldog schedule also included 1A Brantley, the team that bounced Sweet Water from the playoffs a year ago.

“We’d like to make it there again, but it’s going to be tough,” Byrd said. “There’s some good teams in 1A and we’ll see them soon.”

While he is confident in his team’s abilities, Byrd also readily admits that the Maplesville squad it will face Friday could present a threat.

“They’re just a young, scrappy team,” Byrd said of MHS. “They didn’t play a whole lot of games. They could come together and they’re just getting confidence. If good things happen for them, they’ll be a tough team to beat.”

The second-year Sweet Water coach is pleased with the way his team has played recently, but concedes it will still need to improve in one key area in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.

“I don’t think we’re swinging the bat as good as we can,” Byrd said, “but as far as defense and pitching, we’re very confident.”

The Bulldogs’ pitching strength may be the key determining factor in the team’s success as it moves forward. Sweet Water is projected to start Linc Luker on the mound in game one before turning to Chris Landrum in game two. Byrd said that, should his team need it, game three would likely feature Sage Nelson and left-handers B.J. Cade and Tyler Hensley.

Game one of the best-of-three series between Sweet Water and Maplesville is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday. Weather-permitting, game two is slated to follow immediately afterward. If needed, game three will take place at a yet-to-be-determined time Saturday.