E.A. Sports Today

Raising the bar

Pleasant Valley pulling out all the stops to make rare second-round home series ‘something special’

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – If Chris Youngman has been a little hard to find the last couple days, it’s because the Pleasant Valley baseball coach has been busy getting the house ready. Company is coming for a special event and he wants to make sure everything is just right for the occasion.

In this case, “the house” is Pleasant Valley’s baseball park, and the special occasion is the Raiders’ first second-round home playoff series in nearly 10 years.

Adding to the atmosphere is the Raiders (9-18) have the only game in town this week among the three Calhoun County teams still in the playoffs. They host Elkmont (18-18) in a best-of-3 Class 3A series starting with Friday’s doubleheader at 5 p.m. A split brings the deciding game Saturday at 2.

The other county teams left are 3A squads, too. Wellborn (10-11) is at Lauderdale County (20-11) and Piedmont (21-9) visits West Morgan (18-11); those two winners meet next week.

“There’s an excitement about baseball, an excitement about the guy’s sport that hasn’t been there in a while,” Youngman said. “I think the Little League teams canceled their games to come watch. It’s a big deal for our community and our boys.”

“These boys are making some noise. They deserve the attention they’re getting because they’ve worked their tails off. They’ve put themselves in a great position this Friday to be at home and show people.”

Ever since the Raiders beat Geraldine last weekend, Youngman and his staff have been working to recondition their field from a season’s worth of wear. Among the amenities is a new scoreboard that will be operation for the first time this week.

“It’s kind of like company’s coming over and you’ve got to make the house look good, doing all those little things,” Youngman said. “This is brand new to me. I’ve never had a baseball field. This is a whole new thing for me. I’m enjoying the ride.

“I told my wife I got my first water-cooler shower this year. I always wondered what it felt like; the guys gave me one after we played Glencoe (to make the tournament). Last week they were chasing me around with water bottles. I told my wife I’d take a water-cooler bath every week. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.”

The Raiders have been to the second round before, but the last time they played a second-round series at home was 2008 when they lost to Ranburne in three games.

They have never gotten to the third round before. To get there this year, they will have to get past an Elkmont team that likes to apply early pressure and knocked off third-ranked Oakman last week with a pair of low-scoring one-run wins.

The Red Devils’ top player is Jackson Cook, a pitcher with a 6-4 record, four saves and 2.90 ERA who also is hitting.353 with 32 RBIs. Among their other threats are Brent Parker (6-4, 2.57 ERA) and Brady Garris (.353, 34 RBIs). Parker gave up six hits and struck out six in the first game and Cook went the distance in the clinching third game; both allowed one earned run.

“Our guys realize the opportunity in front of us and we don’t take it for granted,” Youngman said. “I had the seniors over for a breakfast the other day and told them you set the standard. Throughout your athletic career you’ve seen opportunities go to waste, be the group that turned it around, the group that says enough is enough.

“We’re looking forward to setting a new standard for Pleasant Valley baseball and our guys are excited to make a statement we’re not just a pushover. We’re going to make our name known and we’re going to fight. Everybody knows if I start doing my part and believe in the guy next to me we’ve got a chance to do something really special.”

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