Monterey seeks spot in semis vs. Pine Prairie

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

MONTEREY, La. &045; Monterey’s Wolves have been here before, can smell it and know what they’ve got to do to get to next week’s state tournament in Alexandria.

The task at hand is today’s Class B quarterfinal matchup against Pine Prairie, the same team that knocked the Wolves out of the playoffs in the same round two seasons ago.

So Monterey head coach Hank Zizzi will just dust off a quote from the past. But hey &045; they’ve all been here before.

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&uot;I go back to my original quote,&uot; Zizzi said. &uot;If we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can play with anybody in Class B. If we don’t, we can’t play with anybody in Class D &045; and there is no Class D. They want to get back to Alexandria real bad. That’s been their goal all year.&uot;

The ball the Wolves (17-5) played in their last two playoff games would be hard for anyone in Class B to beat, but at this point in the playoffs only good teams remain. Pine Prairie is one of them, and the Panthers have an ace of their own to match up with Monterey’s Phillip Bryan.

The Panthers will throw Rodriguez today against Monterey’s Bryan, who has pitched every inning of his team’s two playoff games so far.

&uot;The Rodriguez kid is supposed to be a true No. 1 pitcher,&uot; Zizzi said. &uot;They’re young, but he takes up a lot of slack. He’s someone you’d like to have. He has a good fastball. It runs 82-85 (mph), and he has a good curve. He keeps you off balance.&uot;

While the fastball is impressive, the Wolves have spent more time hitting the offspeed stuff than the heat. They had all kinds of trouble hitting the slow stuff in Tuesday’s win over Weston but hit the fastball just win when it came.

But a pitcher who rings up a gun that high isn’t something the Wolves have seen every day.

&uot;Probably the Collins kid at Jena,&uot; Zizzi said. &uot;We can catch up to his speed. He’s left-handed, but other than that I can’t think of anybody. The boy from Crowville was probably 82, but they’d be beating us with that little weak stuff. That little 70 mph fastball and 55 mph curveball has been killing us. But we’ve been doing some live hitting against some heat.&uot;

The Panthers have yet to allow a run in the playoffs with a 5-0 win over Centerville Tuesday and a 7-0 win over Starkey last week. The scouting report doesn’t indicate the Panthers have a stacked lineup, but they do it with pitching and defense.

Bryan will take the mound for the Wolves after he tossed a two-hit shutout over Weston while striking out nine.

&uot;He’s probably going to have to pitch his best game,&uot; Zizzi said. &uot;They’re scrappy. They’re not going to score a lot of runs. Of course, you don’t score a lot of runs against Rodriguez. They try to beat you with good defense and Rodriguez on the mound &045; pitching and defense.&uot;

The Wolves will need timely hitting from the top of the lineup with Bryan, Ryan Kemp, A.J. Smith and Chad Thomas &045; thing that’s carried them so far this season. They opened up the playoffs with a 16-2 win over Rapides before scoring 10 on Weston Tuesday, and that came on the heels of pounding Block 19-0 in a warmup game.

Now the competition is tougher, but the prize is much bigger. A win would put the Wolves in Alexandria for the first time since 1997.

&uot;A couple of years ago we got beat out by Pine Prairie, and they went on to win state that year,&uot; Zizzi said. &uot;It just depends on our hitting and defense. The last couple of games we’ve been pretty solid. We’re going to make at least two (errors). We just hope they don’t come at bad times.&uot;