Petitt Cup Playoffs: Tommies to face Columbia first round
In no way, shape or form was the path to the playoffs for the HiToms a glamorous one. There are no style points in the Coastal Plain League and for that reason, the HiToms will play on this summer.
Beginning today, the Tommies will open the Petitt Cup playoffs with a best-of-three series against Columbia. Game 1 is at Finch Field, with the final two moving to South Carolina at Capital City Stadium. The Blowfish (31-20) are the No. 2 seed in the West, while the HiToms (26-28) are the third seed.
While the trip to postseason play was bumpy, the last couple of weeks have been pleasant for Thomasville. They were 13-13 in the second half pennant race, but seven of those wins have come in the last 10 outings. Meanwhile, the Blowfish have not been as hot down the stretch. A team with several winning streaks throughout the year, Columbia has gone 3-5 in the final eight regular season games. Two of the three wins, though, have come against the boys from the Chair City.
“They are a very good team,” said HiToms head coach Zach Brown. “I have a lot of respect for their coach. He is a great guy and knows his stuff. They play hard and they play to the end. Columbia really does not give you much. They are not going to go out and kick it around and walk a lot of guys. Columbia is a good club, but I feel good going in.”
As a team the Blowfish rank near the bottom of the league in batting average at .231, but do have some solid hitters in the lineup. Chase Shelton has posted a terrific .389 average in 32 games. Allen Staton and Michael Wilson are also batting just above the .300 mark. Those three lead the team with a combined 75 runs batted in.
Columbia will face the best three pitchers the HiToms have to offer. Dylan Stoops (5-1, 2.20 ERA) will get the ball tonight on his home mound. In 49 innings, he has struck out 43 batters and given up 33 hits with 17 walks. Opponents are hitting .188 against him. Josh Frederick (5-4, 3.55 ERA) takes the hill in Game 2, and if needed, Chase Cunningham (4-2, 3.45 ERA) will hurl in the decisive third game.
“In a three-game series I feel good about it,” said Brown. “I think our pitching is deep enough in a three-game set. Stoops is a lefty against a lot of lefties for Columbia, so it should be a pretty good matchup for us.”
The HiToms sit directly in the middle of the pack at the dish with a .244 average. They are led by Evan Stephens (.338), Robbie Streett (.333), Mike White (3.14) and Kyle Brandenburg (.308).
The offense will face the fifth best team in the league with an ERA of 2.79. Cord Cockrell is tops on the team with a 5-1 record and 1.66 ERA.
All game times are 7:05 p.m.
Note: In 2006, the HiToms were the seventh overall seed as they are this year. That season, they went on to win their first of three consecutive Petitt Cup titles. Brown was a member of that team.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.