By Jeffery Armstrong
The Jonesboro Cardinals were named by a state sports magazine as the April high school team of the month.
With their upset of No. 1-ranked Effingham County last week in state playoff action, the Cardinals are jockeying to become the team of the month of May.
"After defeating Effingham, our confidence is sky high," said Cardinals senior outfielder Rashard Brown, who scored runs and made great defensive plays in both games. "The momentum of winning that first game there carried us to the series win. Hopefully, we can keep it going."
Jonesboro (19-9) will take its momentum to Fayette County to face the Starr's Mill Panthers in second-round state AAAAA playoff action today. Game time for the doubleheader is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. The "if" game is slated for Thursday at 6 p.m.
The Panthers are the No. 2 seed from Region 4-AAAAA, finishing behind Newnan. Last week, Starr's Mill swept the Valdosta Wildcats 4-0 and 13-5 in the state first round. Despite the fact that Jonesboro has sent the top-ranked team in the state home, Cardinals head coach Don Corr knows it will be a challenge to defeat Starr's Mill.
"They are a pretty darn good team; they have to be in order to be a second seed," Corr said. "They have good athletes over there."
Starr's Mill has several athletes Jonesboro will have to prepare for this evening. The key for Jonesboro will be retiring speedy left-hander Kyle McCreary, the leadoff hitter who uses all fields and has a lot of stolen bases. Another Panther to concentrate on will be catcher Joey Lewis, who went 3-for-5 with five runs batted in during game two against Valdosta. Lewis hit a grand slam and a solo homer in that contest. Other key hitters for Starr's Mill include designated hitter Andy Kragor, outfielder Andy Meyers, third baseman Danny Hartpence and first baseman Kory Ison.
On the pitching side for Starr's Mill, lefty Nick Terry is probably the team's No. 1 hurler. Terry throws outside quite a bit and has a great change up and curve ball. The other starting pitcher is Andrew Robinson, a sophomore who throws in the mid ?80s. The reliever on the team is junior Blake Nation, who can hit the low 90s and has a hard slider.
During Jonesboro's impressive sweep at Effingham County, the Cardinals had timely hits and played great defense. They will have to play just like to defeat the Panthers.
"Our games against Effingham were without a doubt our best defensive games this year," Corr said. "If we can hit the ball to all parts of the field, play great defense and throw strikes, we have a good chance to advance."
One Cardinal who hopes to use the momentum from a great series is senior second baseman T.J. Russo, who went 4-for-4 in game one and made great defensive plays in both games, including an over-the-shoulder catch in game two. Russo, who had an early-season slump, was happy to advance to play Starr's Mill.
"We just wanted to win. We were more ready to play than during the last part of the season," Russo said.
Jonesboro senior pitcher/outfielder Alford Arnold said the pitching staff did a good job of changing speeds on Effingham and keeping them off-balance.
"We did a good job of pitching inside and outside and throwing change-ups for strikes," Arnold said. "We've got to do the same at Starr's Mill. If we come out with our ?A' games, we'll be okay."