?Interesting' year hopes to continue for Jonesboro

By Jeffery Armstrong

Senior infielder Branan Norsworthy used one word to summarize the Jonesboro Cardinals' 2004 baseball season.

"Interesting," he said. "It definitely was an interesting year."

The Cardinals have had some high points in 2004: the seven-game region winning streak to start the season, the team pounding 10 hits in a 9-8 win over Stockbridge for head coach Don Corr's 300th coaching victory, batting around in a 7-4 victory over city and region rival Mt. Zion and qualifying for the state playoffs for the second consecutive year. The glaring stat was the four straight losses to end the season, causing the Cardinals to drop from first place to fourth place. Jonesboro will start the state AAAAA playoffs on the road for the second straight year, facing the Effingham County Rebels, the No. 1 team in the state in the gabaseball.net poll, Friday at 4:30 p.m.

The Cardinals do feel good about themselves despite that disappointing end to the season. During a team practice session, several Jonesboro players had ideas about how they can get back on track.

"I just think we need to get our confidence back, like we had at the beginning of the year," said senior catcher Chris Smith. "I'm encouraged with our last couple of practices. We're starting to look good and I think we're focusing again."

As Smith and others cheered on teammates during a hitting drill in practice Tuesday, he explained the reason he felt the team went into a tailspin.

"We started choosing bad pitches to swing at during the last part of the season," Smith said. "As the losing started, we started pressing and going after the wrong pitches."

Smith said to help his team during the playoff run, he must work on transferring the ball quickly from the glove to his hand on throws.

Junior reserve player Stephan Philyaw said overconfidence hurt the Cardinals down the stretch. He also thought everyone on the team felt like he had to be the hero at the plate.

"We hit a lot of popups, trying to swing for the fences on most of our at-bats," Philyaw said. "A bloop single would be nice for us, especially if it brings runs in. We have to hit the ball."

Philyaw also said the Cardinals must be sharper on defense like they were earlier in the year and smarter at the plate, being more selective hitters.

Senior relief pitcher Ty Lewis said the Cardinals pitching staff must throw strikes and induce easy defensive plays to help the team win on Friday.

"We're the type of team that has to get the little things done in order to win," Lewis said. "We're not the type of pitching staff that will overpower people. If we get Effingham to hit grounders and popups at our defense for easy outs, then we've done our job."

Lewis, along with the other Jonesboro pitchers, has done the best job possible. The senior set the team record with four saves this season.

"It's pretty nice to have this record. Jonesboro has had a long history of baseball and coach Corr has had some good teams," Lewis said.