LAMP earns playoff spot with win over ACA
By Tim Gayle
It was a one-game season, but LAMP coach Chad Smith didn’t prepare any special speech for Friday’s area battle with Alabama Christian.
“I think at that point, there’s not too much to say,” Smith said, “because you’ve got a group of seniors that are the leaders of your team that know more than anybody how important it is. Just let them do it and try not to get in the way.”
LAMP kept up its hitting barrage all game and Philip Julian pitched a complete game as the Golden Tigers gave Smith and the five seniors their first trip to the state playoffs with an 11-5 victory over Alabama Christian on Friday afternoon at the AUM Dixie Baseball field.
“It’s different,” senior outfielder Pruett Singleton admitted, “because throughout the year you looked at the area standings to see where you are and there are a lot of different factors in play. This week, we had one goal all week long. We had to go in and sweep and from the start that’s exactly what we were going to do. There was no doubt in our minds.”
LAMP (14-11) travels to Tuscaloosa County to play Sipsey Valley in the first round of the 4A state playoffs on Friday in a best-of-three series. A third game, if necessary, will be played on Saturday.
It will mark the first trip to the state playoffs for the Golden Tigers since a 2012 appearance in the 3A playoffs under former head coach Rocky Smith and Smith, his assistant.
“None of these guys have been to the playoffs before,” Smith said. “So it’s been our goal for several years. To accomplish that this year is big. It was very important for us.”
LAMP’s last big push in the state tourney came in 2011 when it lost to eventual state champion Gordo in the 3A semifinals. A year later, a group of eight seniors were stunned by area runner-up Trinity in the second round of the playoffs and watched the Wildcats make a surprising run to the state championship.
The Tigers, meanwhile, haven’t been back since.
“These are the guys that were eighth graders then,” Smith said. “We were reminiscing about ‘I was in the stands when that happened,’ so it’s a huge accomplishment. It was our goal at the beginning of the season to make the playoffs. It’s just a big deal for us to be going. We’re going to play week to week and see what happens.”
Alabama Christian (9-15) is in uncharted waters as well. The Eagles were 6-5 at the beginning of spring break, but lost three games that week, rebounded with a win over a struggling Prattville Christian team and lost their final seven area games to miss the state playoffs for the first time in Don Gilliam’s tenure, failing to earn a postseason spot for the first time since 2002.
“It’s disappointing because up until that point we had gotten to where we were playing really good defense,” Gilliam said. “Then, all of a sudden, it just fell out of nowhere and we started making errors. But this group doesn’t have any quit in them and that’s what we’ll build off of for next year.”
LAMP jumped on ACA ace MJ Galloway early. Singleton, the leadoff batter in the second, pulled a 1-1 pitch down the right field line for a leadoff home run and two fielding errors allowed LAMP to grab a 3-0 lead. An RBI single by Ford Hilyer and a two-run double by Dillon Hutchinson helped ACA to a 4-3 lead in the bottom half of the inning, but Singleton singled and scored on Anthony Fitzpatrick’s single in the third to tie the game.
“In Game 1s, we’re always facing a good pitcher, someone who throws it well,” said Singleton, who went 2 for 5 and scored twice. “Normally, we hit better against better pitching. (On Thursday), they threw their No. 2 who throws a lot more junk. Today, we faced their No. 1 guy who throws a much better fastball. We just rose to the occasion. P.J. (Julian) threw a great game and we hit behind him for once.”
The Golden Tigers added two more unearned runs in the fifth, then broke open the game in the seventh as Parker Chavers had a ground-rule double to drive in two runs off Hutchinson, followed by a two-run single by George Lash.
“It came down to us having four errors and on those four errors, three of those four runs scored,” Gilliam said. “In the fifth, we really should be up 4-1 and it would be a different ballgame. It came down to timely hitting. We could get them on, but we couldn’t get them in.”
In the second game, a 7-5 LAMP victory, Chavers led off the game with a double, Lash drew a walk and the next six batters all singled as the Tigers built a 6-0 lead. Myles Herron pitched 6.2 innings, which could prove useful in the postseason.
“He needed to throw a complete game,” Smith said. “None of our guys have thrown a complete game except for Philip because in the Catholic series, Winston (Morgan) threw 48 pitches in a five-inning game.”
Morgan helped the Tigers to a win over Alabama Christian on Thursday, their only sweep of an area rival this season.
Chavers went 3 for 5 with 4 RBIs in Friday’s opener and 2 for 3 with an RBI in the nightcap. Sawyer Batson, who reached base in three of four plate appearances in the first game, went 3 for 4 with an RBI in the second game.