PCA needs win in tough Hounds’ house

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2001

[05/11/01] With one more win, the Porters Chapel Academy Eagles will do something only one other PCA team has done reach the state finals. But the Eagles aren’t celebrating or making travel arrangements just yet.

After all, there is still that matter of winning one game, and they know the capabilities of their opponent, Huntington.

Huntington (22-6) bounced back from an opening-game loss last week to sweep a doubleheader from Franklin to move into this South State championship series, and the Hounds haven’t lost at home yet this season.

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The Eagles will try to end the streak Friday when the MPSA South State playoff series resumes at 4:30 at Huntington.

“I’m sure they feel confident that they can win two games (Friday),” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “I feel confident that if we play ball like we’re capable of playing, we can win two games.”

PCA (20-10) is firing on all cylinders at the right time. The Eagles are hitting .333 through three playoff games all wins and ripped Huntington ace Barrett Kiser for 10 hits in a 6-4 Game 1 win on Tuesday.

PCA also rallied back from a three-run, first-inning deficit with four runs in the bottom of the inning. The rally gave PCA the lead for good and destroyed any momentum the Hounds had gained.

“You win one game, it sets the tone for the whole series. We set the tone last night,” said PCA shortstop Clayton Hensley, whose solo homer put PCA ahead. “If we go out and play good defense, no errors, we’ll win. It’s as simple as that.”

Eagles’ ace Heath Smith, who had a subpar outing in Game 1, said PCA had to set the tone Friday as well, and go for the jugular early.

“They’re a good fighting team, they’ve got a lot of heart and a lot of character. That’s obvious, coming back and winning two ballgames like they did,” Smith said. “If we lose that first game, that just gives them a whole lot of momentum going into the second game … If they win with their No. 2 pitcher, they can say maybe our No. 1 pitcher just had a bad game that night, and he’s going to come back and shove it up our tails.”

Before Game 1, Huntington coach Michael McAnally said last week’s trial against Franklin was a good test for his team, and that it may have built some character. After Tuesday’s loss, he didn’t sound quite as sure.

“Coming in tonight, I was hoping that was a wake-up call. Apparently it wasn’t,” McAnally said on Tuesday. “We hadn’t lost at home all year. We’re going to try and iron out the mistakes, but this time of year you’re not going to learn anything new.”

McAnally will send out his co-ace, Trey Mason, for Game 2. Mason (10-2) has a 3.32 ERA and has struck out 64 in 71 2/3 innings this season.

Wright will counter with sophomore left-hander Andrew Embry (3-1). Embry struggled with his control in Game 2 of the Amite series, hitting four batters and walking two while facing only nine batters in an inning-plus.

“I think I was nervous. There was no reason to be nervous; we had a one-game lead, but I was just pressing and trying too hard,” Embry said.

It was the second straight playoff start that Embry failed to make it out of the second inning. He was pulled in the first inning of last season’s two-game sweep to Macon Central. That will just give him extra incentive to redeem himself, he said.

“That wasn’t a good experience either, so now I’m just trying to get on the right track,” Embry said. “You get better as you go. I can’t get any worse.”

Smith said the Eagles are also getting better and more focused on the goal of a state title as they go.

“In class and everything, we’re focused. That was the thing the whole year that was hurting us, was the mental focus,” Smith said. “It’d be game day and we’d be laughing, talking about 4-wheelers, and everything except baseball. You’d hardly ever hear it mentioned. Now, we’re down to business and you don’t hear anything else but baseball talk around the school.”