Wave meets up with St. Joe again

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Last year’s prediction, much to the players’ chagrin, didn’t come to fruition for the Cathedral Green Wave.

The Wave had just dumped Greenville St. Joseph in two games in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs last season by a combined score of 22-7, and then-coach Shane Schlict went ahead and called it &045; he predicted the Green Wave would win the state championship and his team of mostly underclassmen would do so the next.

The Wave didn’t win it last year, but here are the Irish &045; sans Schlict &045; a series away from playing for the state championship. But that’s also the goal of the Green Wave, and the two teams will open the best-of-three series at 1 p.m. today at Chester Willis Field.

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Game 2 will be Monday, and Game 3 will be at Chester Willis if necessary.

&uot;We know that we’re ready for an intense game,&uot; said senior third baseman Wyler Murray. &uot;We’ve been needing that kind of game all year. It’ll be motivation for us and for them, too. It gives us confidence, but they’re going to want to beat us.&uot;

The Green Wave had little trouble in both games against the Irish last season, jumping up to a quick lead in both games to advance. That came on the heels of a 12-0 win over the Irish near the end of the regular season &045; putting the three wins by a combined score of 34-7 from last year.

But the Irish have seven starters back from a season ago and may well be thinking of those losses from last year.

&uot;We got the best of them last year, and they’ve probably improved,&uot; second baseman Michael Blain said. &uot;Hopefully we have, too. They were a good-hitting team. I think they’ll have it in the backs of their minds. If we jump on them early, I think we’ll beat them.&uot;

About the only significant thing that’s new about the Irish this season is head coach Kenny Wolf, who took over from Schlict after last season. The Irish come into the South State championship after downing Edinburg, a team picked by many as one of the teams to beat in 1A, to get one step away from playing for a state championship.

The Irish continue to rely on the services of Ben Maddox and Max Freeman, the top two pitchers and two of the team’s better hitters at the plate.

&uot;I’m sure they’re going to be a pretty good team,&uot; Cathedral head coach Craig Beesley said. &uot;Hopefully we’ll score some runs early in the game and put some pressure on them. Freeman hit three home runs last week. Hopefully we can pitch around those two hitters and work the rest of them. They both swing some good sticks.&uot;

Freeman and Maddox both faced Cathedral last year, and the Wave hopes for similar results today. Beesley said Maddox will likely get the nod on the mound today and come with the offspeed stuff teams have been throwing the Green Wave lately.

Cathedral had trouble with outside breaking pitches earlier in the season, but so far in the playoffs that really hasn’t been the case.

&uot;We’re hitting a lot better now,&uot; Blain said. &uot;We’ve been working on it in practice. Hopefully we’ll do it (today). We see a lot of that. But just sit back and don’t pull out.&uot;

Mize tried that formula on the Green Wave in last week’s playoff series, but it didn’t work as planned. The Wave teed off on Josh Melton in the first game for a 10-4 win and got 10 hits in the second game for a 7-1 win.

&uot;When it happens all game, you kind of get used to it,&uot; Murray said. &uot;You see a pitcher the first time up in the game and make adjustments. Everybody has done a good job of that &045; making adjustments the next couple times up to the plate. Mize’s coach said that, and I guess he’s right &045; normally when we see fastballs, we get 14 or 15 hits a game. We’re ready to see changeups and curveballs.&uot;

That could be the case from Maddox, who Beesley said doesn’t throw hard but comes with a good curveball as his out pitch.

It’s been a pattern dating back to the final games of the regular season &045; the opposition trying to throw offspeed stuff for strikes to keep from having to throw the fastball while behind in the count.

&uot;Their No. 1 pitcher doesn’t throw hard, but he’s got good control of his curveball,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;He’ll keep it away from a lot of the hitters. We didn’t hit a lot of balls solid off of him (last year). We hit a lot off the handle. Freeman throws harder, but we hit the ball against people that throw hard. He throws about 83.&uot;

The Green Wave, meanwhile, will turn its pitching duties over to left-hander Te Riley today. He returns to the role of No. 1 starter after sophomore Corey Walker got the nod in Game 1 against Mize last week.

Beesley noted the move wasn’t motivated by a change in strategy but to rest Riley since he had thrown a complete game two days earlier.

&uot;Hopefully Te will be on, and we’ll bring Corey back (for Game 2),&uot; Beesley said. &uot;I feel comfortable with either one of them. If Te gets in trouble, we can bring in Corey. But I like Corey pitching up there (in Game 2). They’ve got a big ball park, and I feel our defense is better when Corey is pitching.&uot;