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Deep lineup, constant pitching has Cell Christian eyeing one other state title

Nothing appears to decelerate the Cell Christian baseball workforce.

The Leopards have moved from Class 2A all the way in which to Class 4A lately on account of the AHSAA’s aggressive stability rule for personal faculties.

Final spring, that they had a promising season lower brief – as everybody did – by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And but, Talley Haines’ 10th Cell Christian workforce stands at 18-1 total this yr and is ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by the Alabama Sports activities Writers Affiliation.

“Jason (Smith) and I’ve each been right here 10 years now, and I feel that has actually helped with our success,” Haines stated of he and his assistant coach. “For a program to be good persistently, it takes stability. We’ve had numerous these children since they have been in second grade. They know us and we all know them.

“We make it a degree to attempt to get to know our youthful children.”

The Leopards gained back-to-back Class 2A state titles in 2015 and 2016. They gained the Class 3A crown in 2018. Now, they’re in quest of their first 4A title. Their solely loss this yr got here in opposition to Saraland (5-Four on March 4). They beat the Spartans 3-1 per week earlier.

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As traditional, Cell Christian’s schedule has been robust. That’s by design. They’ve performed perennial playoff threats St. Paul’s, G.W. Lengthy, Theodore and Stanhope Elmore. On Saturday, the Leopards journey to Tuscaloosa to play the workforce ranked proper behind them within the newest 4A rankings – American Christian.

“We attempt to play as many good groups as we are able to,” Haines stated. “You may study quite a bit from these video games. Generally you study laborious classes as a result of they’ll expose your weaknesses. However that means that you can see what they’re and work to make them higher.”

Cell Christian misplaced simply three seniors from final spring – all pitchers and all now enjoying on the school degree. Of their place, Camden Diamond, Kelly Lanier, Micah Frazier and Matthew Dimmick have stepped as much as solidify the rotation.

“That’s sort of been the distinction for us up to now,” Haines stated. “These guys have thrown some actually good innings. They compete. They aren’t overpowering, however they throw strikes and let their protection work.”

Extra importantly, in addition they let their offense work. To date this yr, the Leopards have gained video games by scores of 21-4, 21-15 and 17-7. They’ve scored no less than 10 runs 10 instances.

“We’ve acquired 9 guys, and I really feel like all 9 of them can come up and drive the ball,” Haines stated. “Generally, previously, you might be simply hoping your final 4 or 5 guys can possibly get on base. This yr, our guys on the backside of the lineup are run producers as properly.”

The lineup is anchored by three gamers who have already got dedicated to play school baseball. They’re senior outfielder Rashad Robinson (Memphis), junior infielder Charlie Keller (Mississippi State) and junior catcher Grant Jay (Dallas Baptist).

Keller (8) and Jay (5) have mixed for 13 of the workforce’s 19 house runs coming into tonight’s sport at Fairhope. Eight gamers have no less than 12 RBIs by means of 19 video games and the workforce has scored 205 complete runs.

The workforce’s success up so far hasn’t shocked Haines.

“We knew we had a gifted group once they have been arising by means of center faculty,” he stated. “That they had success early, and numerous these children have performed in several roles for us for the reason that eighth or ninth grade. They have been enjoying with some good gamers then and simply attempting to fill some spots.

“This yr, it has simply paid off with them getting quite a bit stronger and rising up. A few of these guys have been enjoying collectively since park ball. It’s group as a result of all of them appear to love one another, which might be uncommon.”

With three weeks left earlier than the beginning of the highschool baseball playoffs on April 23, Haines is simply attempting to maintain his workforce targeted week-to-week.

“I don’t assume the workforce issues themselves a lot with rankings and all of the issues away from the sector,” he stated. “They’ve executed job of simply popping out and enjoying. We’ve acquired some aggressive video games arising. Whether or not we win or lose is just not actually a priority proper now. As a coach, you simply wish to maintain them enjoying laborious and enjoying with focus.”

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