Rams look to continue special playoff run

Published 11:45 am Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Valley Rams are approaching uncharted territory for most of the roster the team faces off with a familiar Holtville team at home in the 5A quarterfinals. 

The Rams have had a lot of success as a program, but deep playoff runs have been few and far between. This year’s team has been special. Valley has boasted one of the more dominant pitching staffs in the state this season. 

While the hitting has been inconsistent, the Rams have had dominant stretches of offense to back up a strong rotation and defense. 

Email newsletter signup

“Like we’ve thought all along, our pitching has been really good and our defense is pretty good,” Valley coach Mike Meadows said. “Our hitting is kind of streaky at times. When we swing it well, we can score some runs.” 

The Rams are led by Jackson Sanders, C.J. Chambley and Seth Hammock on the mound. Sanders and Chambley also carry the best bats on the team as seniors. The seniors for Valley have led the way, but the surrounding parts have been the key ingredient in the Rams taking it to another level. 

Braylon Carter has become a consistent hitter at the bottom of Valley’s lineup, while other younger players have come along through the late stretches of the season. Ty Monteith, Mason Yarbrough, Carter Green and Seth Hammock have seen their bats heat up lately. 

“Braylon Carter has really come along the last few weeks,” Meadows said. “He’s swinging the bat a lot better. He’s swung it well all year but didn’t have a lot to show for it. Here lately, some stuff is starting to show up for him. Seth Hammock and Carter Green, those are kids that started for us last year that have struggled a lot this year early on, but they’re starting to come around some at the plate.” 

Valley faces Holtville in the quarterfinals at home after traveling to face St. Paul’s Episcopal in the previous round. The teams will face off in a doubleheader on Thursday, with a matchup on Friday to be played if needed. The Bulldogs are the first familiar face that Valley has seen since the start of the postseason. 

The Rams beat Holtville twice during the regular season by a combined four runs. Despite the success in the matchups during the regular season, Meadows knows that this team is not to be taken lightly. 

The Bulldogs have made state championship appearances in each of the last two seasons and are the reigning state champs. Holtville is a team built for the postseason, and the players have more experience than most of Valley’s roster. 

“Our biggest challenge as coaches is to not let our guys get complacent,” Meadows said. “Keep working every day in practice. Let’s keep getting better every day in practice and don’t overlook these guys. Having played them twice and having success, that’s one of my biggest concerns is not letting my guys overlook them this weekend.” 

While several of the players are unfamiliar with playing this deep in the postseason, the coaching staff has been here before. Meadows and assistant coach Jerome Sanders made a run to the quarterfinals in 1993 as players for Valley. 

Meadows played second base while Sanders played catcher. Current starting shortstop, Matthew Mcdonald, also comes from a legacy of Valley baseball as his father was a part of the 1993 team. The two teams have few similarities besides both having a strong rotation, but the experience has helped Meadows and Sanders understand how to coach their players leading into the matchup with Holtville. 

“We try to talk to them about that, and tell them that there’s only eight teams playing and you’re one of those eight,” Meadows said. “Enjoy this, but don’t be complacent with it. Let’s take this thing and keep going with it. Don’t let it be too big, it’s just another game on the schedule, and we’ve got to find a way to win two ball games.” 

Meadows has had several competitive teams throughout his tenure as head coach, but this team is different. This team has the best depth on the mound that Meadows has seen, but the work ethic and chemistry within the team have stood out even more. 

The seniors took it upon themselves to build bonds with their teammates. Whether it was extra hours at practice or just hanging out on their own time, the chemistry on the field has replicated the relationships that have been built off the field. 

The bats have taken longer to come around this season, but a large part of that is due to the intense schedule Meadows built early on. The Rams had a small amount of time to practice before diving head-first into competition. 

Over the past few weeks, the team has had time to slow things down and put more effort into the batting cage. Those improvements have started to show on the field and it should give the Rams a viable shot at advancing to the state semifinals.