By Doug Gorman
When the Eagle's Landing Christian baseball team takes the field tonight for the first round of the Class A playoffs against visiting Bowdon in the best-of-three series, there should be plenty of reason for optimism.
After all, the Chargers are used to trips to the playoffs. Since 2005, ELCA has posted a 142-49 record, including their state title in 2006 and state runner up in 2007, making the postseason every year.
As ELCA opens the playoffs with a doubleheader starting a 4 p.m., head coach Doug Campbell said he believes his team will be ready.
"We have never lost a first-round series," he said. "We don't want to start now. Bowdon is good, they have a good program, and we know they will be ready to play."
The Chargers finished the year with a 20-5 record and earned the second seed out of Region 7-A. Bowdon finished 17-8 and secured the third seed in Region 6-A.
"One of our goals was to win 20 games this year and we were able to do that, Campbell said.
ELCA secured the magical 20-win mark with its 4-3 victory against Mount. Pisgah Christian School last week.
After opening the playoffs on the road the last two years, Campbell is glad to be home.
"It's always good to be home," he said. "We should have the crowd behind us. Hopefully, we can go out there and take care of business on Friday, get the sweep and have the weekend off."
The Chargers' success came with two long winning streaks. After dropping the season opener to Woodward Academy, ELCA won six games in a row. Later this year, the Charges ran off seven wins in a row.
ELCA has made it back to the playoffs thanks to a combination of strong pitching and solid, timely hitting.
Junior right-handed pitcher Corey Westover brings a 6-0 record into the series. Cole Carrera, who is also a right-handed junior, won five times this season, and has 40 strikeouts. Sophomore left-handed closer Kevin Martin has been able to shutdown opponents in save situations and has 58 strikeouts.
If needed, Campbell plans to turn to Will Dellinger and Levi Haines in pitching roles.
Campbell admitted he isn't sure what order he will use his pitching staff, but knows Westover and Carrera will each start one of the games today.
The Chargers also have won games thanks to plenty of offensive punch.
Patrick Long has displayed plenty of power, with six home runs. David Whitis, and Taylor Barron have also come up with clutch hits. Barron enters the series with four homers. Haines, one of the seniors on the team, used to lead the squad in strikeouts, but this year he has been one of the team's clutch hitters. He comes into the series with a .430 record.
"We have been able to come up with some timely hits this year, and score runs when I wasn't sure we would be able to," Campbell said.
Of the 20 victories, ELCA produced double figures in runs 11 times.
Campbell admits he enjoys coaching this team because of its laid back approach to the game.
"They love playing baseball. Right now, they are really pumped up for the playoffs, but they are loose, and having a lot of fun. They feel like they can go all the way, Campbell said.
Should a third game be needed on Saturday, it would start at 2. p.m