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Great year for Valley baseball

I could not attend the Valley High School baseball team’s playoff games last Friday.

Earlier in the week, I contracted a mean case of the flu that sidelined me for the better part of four days.

In my absence, Baker Ellis covered the Rams’ first-round series against Sylacauga.

Baker is the publisher of The Valley Times-News, but he was once a sports editor like me.

In fact, that’s how we met.

During my sophomore year at Samford University, he sent out an email to the university’s journalism department asking if there were any students interested in freelancing for the Shelby County Reporter, where he was the sports editor.

I responded to his email and began to write for him in the spring. My first assignment was covering high school baseball.

That’s why it felt like a role reversal of sorts on Friday, when Baker attended the Valley games.

He texted me updates throughout.

As it neared 8 p.m., he informed me that Valley had dropped game one to Sylacauga by a single run in extra innings.

A couple hours later, he passed along the news that the Rams trailed by seven in the sixth inning of game two.

Their fate was all but sealed.

Once it was, I read Baker’s account of the games and learned how they unfolded.

I couldn’t help but feel a bit surprised at the outcome.

Sure, Sylacauga entered the series as the ninth-ranked team in Class 5A. Sure, it had lost only a handful of contests all season. Sure, it had beaten Valley by five runs earlier in the spring.

Nevertheless, I thought the Rams had what it took to knock them off.

They had home-field advantage. They had a stable of veteran pitchers. They had momentum.

Valley won nine of 10 games ahead of the playoff series, including a resounding 11-run triumph over 7A Smiths Station in the regular-season finale.

Before that, it rallied to capture the area title by sweeping Beauregard in the final two tilts of a three-game series.

Valley appeared to be firing on all cylinders, peaking at the right time.

Most importantly, the team seemed to believe.

But baseball is a mercurial sport, prone to produce unexpected outcomes.

That’s what makes it entertaining to watch. It’s also what can make it unbearable for teams that wind up on the losing side.

The Valley baseball team, however, should not let two losses define its season.

The Rams accomplished a lot in 2018.

Led by head coach Patrick Shivers, they posted a winning secord (17-13), strung together a six-game winning streak and repeated as area champs. Valley had not won back-to-back area titles in close to 25 years.

There’s no reason to think that the success will stop anytime soon. Under Shivers’ leadership, the program has shown steady signs of progress.

A tradition is being restored. A culture is being created.

Sam Chandler is the sports editor at The Valley Times-News. He can be reached by phone at 334-644-8106 or by email at sam.chandler@valleytimes-news.com.