Photo by Derrick Mahone
Kelcey White became the first Mount Zion coach to lead the school’s baseball team to a state playoff berth. The Bulldogs will travel to Harris County to take on the Region 3-AAAA champions Friday in a best-of-three series.
Kenneth Wiggins has heard stories about the thrill of playing in the high school baseball playoffs. His friends at Lovejoy, Jonesboro and Mundy’s Mill have told him all about the experience.
This Friday, Wiggins and his Mount Zion teammates will get to experience the playoffs first hand when the fourth-seed Bulldogs of Region 4-AAAA travel to Region 3-AAAA champion Harris County.
It is the first time in Mount Zion history that its baseball team has reached the playoffs.
“These guys’ attitude has been that they are not just looking to play two games and come home,” Mount Zion coach Kelcey White said. “They are going down there with the attitude to win.”
Said Wiggins: “I’ve heard friends talk about the playoffs. I’m excited about the opportunity to get to play in it.”
It took some endurance and a hot streak, along with some help from Lovejoy, to reach the postseason.
The Bulldogs needed to win its last three games to have a shot at a playoff spot. That came on the heels of playing nine games in 10 days.
In its last five games, Mount Zion has scored 67 runs.
“Our bats have been hot,” White said. “The big key has been our depth to get us through those games.”
After its 10-0 win over North Clayton last Friday, the Bulldogs got some help in clinching a playoff spot when Lovejoy defeated Creekside. Both Mount Zion and Creekside ended the region schedule with a 11-9 record, but the Bulldogs got the fourth seed because it won both meetings during the season.
“It was a tough and draining last week of the regular season,” senior outfielder J’wanni Austin said. “It feels good to accomplish this. We are looking forward to the playoffs. We are staying positive. We have a lot of faith in each other.”
Harris County has won five straight entering Friday’s best-of-three series. The Tigers missed the postseason last year. They reached the first round in 2010 and was swept in two games by Alcovy.
White, who took Stone Mountain and Riverdale to the postseason, said his team’s lack of playoff experience shouldn’t be a problem.
“It could be to our advantage, because these kids don’t know what to expect,” White said. “We have a lot of players that play travel baseball. This team, and program, has really grown over the last three years.”
Mount Zion missed out on the playoffs by one game in 2011.
And the future looks bright for the program with only three seniors graduating off this team. The JV only lost three games and almost made it to the championship game.
“About 70 percent of this team is made up of ninth and tenth graders,” White said. “We feel like they will do nothing but get better. I’m definitely excited about the possibilities. This year, we are sort of playing with house money. We don’t think of ourselves as any less than any other program.”