E.A. Sports Today

Indians harbor playoff hopes

UPDATED: Despite Wednesday’s loss, Ohatchee confident it can break playoff drought

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OHATCHEE – Caleb Dickie and his Ohatchee baseball teammates feel like they’ve been part of a 19-year marathon and they’re closer than ever to breaking the tape at the finish line.

It has been nearly two decades since the Indians last made the state baseball playoffs – 1996, well before any of the current players were even born – but this year they believe is the one they finally break through.

It won’t be without work, however. After falling to Westbrook Christian 5-1 Wednesday, the Indians (9-8) now must win their final area series with Glencoe in two weeks to grab the presumptive No. 2 spot in the area. Westbrook, 4-0 in the area, clinched a playoff spot with the win.

The set-up looks like this: Westbrook swept Glencoe and Ohatchee, and has Ashville remaining after its spring break. Ohatchee swept Ashville. Glencoe and Ashville started their series Wednesday.

“It feels like we’re running down a dream and we’re about to grab it,” Dickie, the Indians’ No. 3 hitter, said. “It’s right there and we’re trying our best to get to it.
“I’ve been on the team five years and this is the first time we’ve ever had a shot. It’d be a great step for the community and for the team, finally catching what everyone’s been (playing) for this whole time.”

Actually, the Indians came close to making the playoffs in coach Blake Jennings’ first season last year, but wound up falling one game short.

Jennings’ approach to games is generally one of next pitch, next at-bat, next game, but he did “mention the Glencoe thing” in the team’s post-game huddle.

“They were all asking what do we have to do now,” Jennings said. “We have to beat Glencoe; it’s as simple as that.

“It would be huge for the morale (to get in). If we do what we’re supposed to do, play the way we know how to play, we can get in.”

The Indians (8-9) came up a little short in that regard Wednesday as they’re still in the process of what Jennings called “learning how to win.” They had only two hits through the first six innings off Westbrook starter Tyler Self, made an error that was key to the outcome and their three pitchers walked nine.

The Warriors (6-9) broke open a tie game with three runs in the fourth inning. Ohatchee was one strike away from getting out of the inning with no damage, but mishandled a grounder in the infield on a two-out payoff pitch that brought home the go-ahead run. Bases-loaded walks to Kyle Leonard and Chandler Richards extended the lead.

“We get a break here, a break there, you have to take advantage of that,” Westbrook coach Matt Kennedy said. “I told the guys we didn’t play a perfect game, but I’m proud how they performed because it is tough to come play at Ohatchee. … Blake has done a really, really good job, to me; he’s kind of turning this program around. I knew it was going to be tough coming over here today.”

The Indians tied the game 1-1 in the second. Tristan Woodall got it started with a one-out bloop double that fell among the shortstop, second baseman and centerfielder. He moved up on an error and scored on starting pitcher Blade Crump’s slow roller to second.

Westbrook Christian 5, Ohatchee 1

Westbrook Christian 100 301 0 — 5 8 3
Ohatchee 010 000 0 — 1 4 2

TYLER SELF, Walker Ellison and Kyle Leonard; BLADE CRUMP, Michael Cherry (4), Micah Lee (7) and Micah Lee. 2B: Tanner Kennedy (WC), Tristen Woodall (O). WP: Self. LP: Crump.

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