Beulah looks to set new playoff standards with series against New Brockton

Published 4:07 pm Thursday, April 18, 2024

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For the first time in more than a decade, the Beulah Bobcats baseball team finished the season as area champions. The Bobcats are now set to host New Brockton in a best-of-three series beginning on Friday at 5:30 E.T. 

Beulah is coming off an emotional series against Childersburg. The Bobcats mounted late comebacks in both wins over the Tigers, and the coaching staff hopes to carry that momentum and emotion into the first round. 

It had been an up-and-down year for Beulah leading up to the Childersburg series. The Bobcats finished the season with an 11-11 record, but the team is peaking at the right time. 

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Beulah’s pitching staff has been rock-solid all season, but the bats have been iffy at times. The Bobcats have focused most of their time in practice on changing their approach at the plate and all the pieces seem to be falling into place. 

“We’re hitting at the right time,” Beulah coach Michael Courson said. “We’ve had lulls this year where we’ve struggled at the plate. In the Childersburg series, we had 17 total hits through two games.” 

The New Brockton team that will make the 137-mile trip to Beulah on Friday is far from an easy first-round matchup. The Gamecocks come into the matchup with an 18-11 record and are strikingly similar to the Bobcats in their approach. 

“I think they hit the ball about like us is what we can see,” Courson said. “There weren’t too many games this year where we’re throwing 10 runs on the board. I think they play steady defense, put the ball in play [and] get timely hits.” 

New Brockton relies heavily on their ace, senior Trent Smith. Smith has allowed just four earned runs while pitching over 41 innings this season. 

Smith can reach up into the mid-80s with his fastball, which is faster than most pitchers can throw in 3A. However, Beulah is far from unfamiliar with facing high velocity. The Bobcats scheduled matchups with teams like Valley for the sole purpose of adjusting to a higher level of pitching. 

“We’ve seen that this year,” Courson said. “That’s why we schedule Valley, Tallassee and Cleburne County. We wanted our guys to be able to see velocity on the mound and know what that looks like. We try to mimic that the best we can in practice too.” 

Beulah has been led by the depth of the pitching staff this season. The Bobcats will start Drew Duval on the mound in game one on Friday with Brady Blackston toeing the rubber in game two. 

“We thought before the season that those were our main two guys, and they’ve lived up to the billing of being are 1-2 guys,” Courson said. 

Courson has been able to use a host of players out of the bullpen this season. Freshman Jadin Hancock has become a reliable open to finish off games this season while Wes Grant, Joshua Jerrill, Trent Tidwell and a few others have become options out of the pen. 

“We’ve got arms that we can throw in relief, and we’ve got arms that we feel comfortable with starting,” Courson said. “I think that’s a strength. I think that’s a testament to these guys’ hard work all year.” 

Grant pitched in relief on Friday and Saturday against Childersburg, but his work at the plate led the Bobcats to the area championship. In two games, Grant finished with four hits, two RBIs and three runs. 

As a junior on a team with just one senior, Grant has become the emotional leader for the Bobcats. Grant has led with his play throughout the season, but now he is becoming the vocal leader of the team. 

“We challenge these guys all the time about being leaders, and he’s that,” Courson said. “He leads by example, and we’ve seen this year him being that vocal presence.” 

The entire athletic program at Beulah has seen a rebuild over the past two years. Just about every team for the Bobcats has set a new standard in 2023 and 2024. Winning the area did that for the baseball team, but making a deep run in the playoffs would push that standard even further. 

“We always set goals each year. Every year, one of them is winning the area,” Courson said. “Last year, we made the playoffs and that’s a goal we achieved, but they know that the expectations continue to build… I think they’re relishing that. Now, it’s a new goal to get out of the first round. Continuing to place goals in front of them and hoping we can reach those, I think allows us to not rest on that.”