Morgan set to face Pike Liberal Arts in AISA semifinals

Published 9:08 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The story of this Morgan Academy baseball season — whenever it ends — is the closeness of the group and how the Senators have overcome big deficits time and time again.

Of course, Morgan is still hoping to add another chapter to what has been an incredible year.

The Senators (22-8) will play Pike Liberal Arts in Troy Wednesday in the Alabama Independent School Association semifinals. The first game will start at 4 p.m. and will be followed by game two. If a third game is necessary, it’ll be played on Thursday.

Both teams enter the series red hot. Morgan has won 11 of its last 12 games and Pike has won 17 of 20.

Pike Liberal Arts finished the season ranked No. 2 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association baseball rankings, while Morgan was ranked No. 10.

“[Monday] we had a great practice, but it was great in terms of very loose, very laid back,” said Morgan coach Josh Thacker. “The guys were laughing and joking. They don’t have that wide-eyed, oh my God big game look. They have that calm confidence.”

At this point, it’s hard to imagine the Senators getting into a situation where they don’t feel confident. Morgan has come from behind to win three of its four playoff games this year.

In two of those games, the Senators trailed by five or more.

Thacker said the comebacks show the confidence each player has in each other.

“That’s what I love so much about high school sports — the fun-loving spirit of the kids,” Thacker said.

As hard as it is to believe given the deficits they’ve faced, Morgan is still undefeated in the playoffs.

Thacker said a lot of that has to do with the team’s deep pitching staff.

Thacker credits pitchers Britton Adams and Sawyer Hopkins, who have served in long relief, for dealing with the deficits and keeping the Senators in games.

“Both of those two guys are coming in and they are following up Gunnar, they are following up Brayton, throwing strikes, throwing to contact and allowing us to stay in the game,” Thacker said. “Our saving graces defensively have been Sawyer and Britton.”

Pike Liberal Arts won the first game between the two teams 3-1 back on March 4. Thacker said that game was so long ago that he doesn’t even plan to look back at the book.

“You can look back and you can dwell on things, but I don’t feel like we played a good game that day and coach Ponder is going to tell you he doesn’t feel like they played a good game that day,” Thacker said. “We talked about that after the game actually.”

Two months later, one of those two teams will move on to the state championship. Thacker said the key for Morgan will be keeping an even-keel attitude throughout the series, regardless of how good or bad things are going.

“We may very well come out and hit five home runs in our first five at-bats and then not get a hit the rest of the game,” Thacker said. “We were one-hit through the fifth the other night against Bessemer and came back and win, so you have to understand that as soon as something happens you have to forget it, whether it’s good or bad.”