Thursday, April 26, 2012

Backs Against the Wall

After two area games were in the books, the Bobcats found themselves with an 0-2 record and in serious jeopardy of ending their string of recent playoff appearances. They fell by scores of 3-2 in both games. Things did not look good. Despite the Senior leadership, the team just wasn't playing well. They were leaving runners in scoring position every inning and having at least one "fall apart" inning in the field during every game.

April arrived and brought with it an opportunity. It was time to see what they Bobcats were made of. At the beginning of the season, they'd named a playoff berth among their goals. With double-headers against all 3 area opponents ahead of them, they'd soon find out if they would achieve their goal or see their season cut short. They could talk about wanting to win, but could they do what it took to put Ws in the book?

With my fingers crossed and my heart bursting out of my chest, I watched the Cats come from behind and take game one of a double-header from both Lineville and arch enemy Ranburne. With the pressure on, our guys came through and plled out these huge wins. All that remained between Woodland and a 4th straight trip to the AHSAA baseball postseason was the Randolph County Tigers. A loss would mean a possible four-way tie in the area and a complete mess. A win would put us in. All we had to do was take care of business. And we did in a 7-4 redemption of the earlier loss.

There were times during the season that I really worried about whether or not the guys would find a way to get the job done. I knew how disappointed coach would be. This group of seniors has been a huge part of the baseball program since he took it over. Missing out on the playoffs their senior year would feel like failure. But, I don't know how I could have been a Bobcat fan for all these years and doubt the size of the hearts in these kids. I know better. Time and again, I have seen those guys in the orange and blue with their backs against the wall. Each time they impress me. They don't always come out on top, but they never go down without a fight. And I'm proud both of those young men and for them.

The Bobcats traveled to Vincent in the opening round and won both games solidly. It was the best,the cleanest, I've seen them play all season in all facets of the game. I hope they will take those wins and the momentum from them into round 2, where they will face a familiar foe in the Ranburne Bulldogs. The Cats and Dogs face off in a best of three series beginning Friday at 4:00.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

And the Winner is...

It's 2012. It's the 12th year of the Bailey Bracket Challenge. Coach wore #12 in high school. I'd never been beaten... The odds weren't in my favor this year.

I had a bad feeling about my bracket from the start. The only thing I felt sure of was writing Kentucky in that last empty space. I'd seen them play enough to feel good about their chances. The thing that impressed me the most was how strong they finished, how they never gave up. I've seen team after team show up ready to play against UK. Many times this season, the Wildcats would be down at halftime, but it didn't matter. They'd take charge of the 4th quarter and show you once again why there was a little number 1 by their name. I saw them play in person at Auburn early in the year. Impressive, even in a hard-fought game against a not-so-great AU squad. They were my pick to win all the way.

I took a rather commanding lead in the first round. Being up something like 7 games along with Coach losing 2 of his sweet sixteen's, I felt like it was in the bag. Ol' number 12. But, as the tournament progressed and the field shrank, Coach had more teams remaining than I did. He had over half of the elite eight still on his bracket. I hadn't seen his bracket or even looked at mine since turning it in. I started to get nervous...

As the final four squared off, Coach still had both of his championship teams alive. And they won out, Kentucky and Kansas. He'd picked Kansas to go on and defeat my Kentucky pick. It looked like it might come down to a championship game head-to-head to name a winner. But after running the numbers, there was already a 4 game lead for the winner.

Like Kentucky, who came out of the locker room shooting lights out and playing inspired basketball in the final game and then had to hold Kansas off in the last few minutes, I claimed my 12th championship. I'd like to congratulate Coach on another good effort. Losing by 5 games is respectable, even if it is to your wife ;-). No hard feelings about to pulling against my teams! I'm looking forward to the next 3 months of Sunday meals with you.