E.A. Sports Today

Well armed

[corner-ad id=1]Alexandria goes eight-deep in its pitching staff to keep opposing batters at bay

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

ALEXANDRIA – In any short series, the teams with the best pitching and defense usually are the ones that come out on top.

With that in mind, Alexandria appears quite well armed as its continues its quest for a baseball state championship.

The Valley Cubs (33-4) will have at their disposal as many as eight pitchers to throw at sixth-ranked Russellville (31-6) in their Class 5A semifinal series that starts Friday.

If coach Andy Shaw were so inclined, he could start an entire lineup of pitchers and shortstop Dalton Cobb, one of the best hitters in the state, to lead it off.

He won’t do that, of course, but it’s nice to know he could.

“Pitching and defense is what our premise has been all year,” Shaw said. “It’s been good for us. We just hope it continues.

“We’ve got a lot of guys we can throw out there who have been consistent for us all year, throwing strikes, been in tough situations. I like our guys in any situation … because they all throw strikes and that’s all we want, somebody throwing strikes.”

As it is, the Cubs are expected to go with Cody Dodd and Justin Whitley in Friday’s series-opening doubleheader. They’ll likely continue with Taylor Shaddix in a Game 3, but they also can turn to Will Reaves, Dalton Warren, Jacob Heathcock, Riley Shaw and Jake Woodard.

“We’re definitely deep in pitching,” Whitley said.

Dodd and Whitley provide distinct opposites at the top of the rotation.

Dodd is a hard-throwing junior right-hander who Thursday had his roster spot confirmed for July’s North-South All-Star Game. Whitley is a crafty senior left-hander who keeps his off-speed stuff down in the zone and has been virtually untouchable this season with an ERA below 1.00.

The Cubs went three games in each of the last two series. They lost the openers to Mortimer Jordan and Pleasant Grove as Dodd struggled to find the strike zone early and didn’t get much run support, but Whitley came in behind him to salvage the split.

Of course, Shaw is confident he’ll see big things from Dodd this weekend, and that’ll be a welcomed change, not only for the pitcher’s sake, but the team’s as well.

“We haven’t played particular well in Game One either series and I don’t know what the cause of that is,” Shaw said. “I sure would like to play good right out of the gate. We haven’t been as sharp as we can be pitching, we haven’t made the routine play and we have not hit it very well. But we win because we battle.”

The Cubs handed it to Shaddix to get them through Game 3. A “more determined” Shaddix handed it to Mortimer Jordan, but Pleasant Grove reached him last week, putting the Cubs’ pitching staff to the test.

Reaves came in and after a rough start kept the Spartans in check to keep the Cubs in the game, and Whitley came out of the pen to get the final outs.

“I really enjoy competing against the other guys,” Shaddix said. “When they do well, it makes me want to do well.”

Russellville won’t be an easy out. The Golden Tigers have won 25 of their last 26 games and 16 in a row. They beat the Cubs in a game earlier this year in Guntersville.

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