By Doug Gorman
Perhaps, the Henry County Warhawks baseball team is a fan of Willie Nelson, because the country music legend's mega hit "On the road again" could easily be the theme song for the squad's trek through the playoffs.
Henry County opened the Class AAAA state playoffs on the road at Bainbridge, then followed up the first-round victory with a win at Statesboro in the round of 16.
So far, the bus rides haven't bothered the Warhawks.
"If there is a good problem about playing on the road, it's all you have to do is concentrate on playing baseball," said first-year head coach Troy Baker. "The long bus rides gave us an opportunity to stay focused, and get off the bus and play."
This week the Warhawks get back on the bus for another trip, albeit a little closer when they travel to Marist in a best-of-three series in the Class AAAA Elite 8.
Henry County comes into the series with a 19-8 record. Marist , which is ranked No. 4 in the Class AAAA poll, is 22-9.
Like the Warhawks, Marist swept its two playoff series, beating Cedar Shoals 8-3 and 8-7 and Ringgold 8-2 and 6-2.
Marist and Henry County have developed a rivalry over the years.
"There really are no secrets between us and them," said Baker. "(Former Henry Coach) Chuck (Campbell) kept scheduling them over the years."
Earlier this year, Henry played Shaw at Marist and was also able to watch Marist practice.
"They are a good fundamentally sound baseball team," Baker said.
Pitching could be a key to advancing to the Final Four for the first time in school history.
Senior Matt Clark is 2-0 through the playoffs with a brilliant .50 ERA. In 14 innings, the senior has struckout 16 batters and given up just five hits.
He is expected to get the start in Game 1 against the Marist.
Jason Heyward will get the start in game 2. The sophomore has struck out three and walked none in five innings. If the Warhawks have to go to the bullpen, Baker will probably put the ball in the hands of Jeremy Hardy, who has struck out six en route to saving a game.
"Right now, I think he is one of the top closers in the state," Baker said.
Offensively, the Warhawks generated plenty of runs. Through four playoff games, the Warhawks have outscored opponents 35-12. They bring a .342 playoff batting average into the Marist series.
"We have been swinging solid bats from the one through the nine spot in the lineup," said Baker.
Greg Lindsey is batting . 571, Scott Robinson is batting .533 with a home run, Austin Peacock is batting .455 with a team leading seven RBIs through the playoffs.
Teammate Coleton Segars is hitting .467 with six RBIs.
Kyle Price (.333) Jeremy Hardy (.333), and Jason Heyward (.300) are hitting .300 or better through the playoffs.
In addition to his skill on the mound, Clark also has a playoff homer.