Bulldogs return home for round 2

File / The Herald

Holtville coach Torey Baird hopes to lead the Bulldogs into the state quarterfinals for the second straight season.

For the second consecutive season, Holtville is one of the final 16 teams remaining in the Class 4A baseball playoff. After complete games from Drew Nobles and Chappelle Washam led the Bulldogs to a sweep of Dallas County, Holtville earned its first home series of this postseason as it will host LAMP this weekend in the second round.

“We only got to play the first round at home last season so this is huge,” Holtville coach Torey Baird said. “Having a second-round game at home gets your fans more involved and they can make a difference. We’ve played well at home all year and our guys are more comfortable there.”

Holtville (20-9) have won 10 of 11 games at Smart-Collier Field this season including going 3-0 at home in area play. LAMP is 4-3 in true road games this season.

The Golden Tigers (22-8) enter the second round after sweeping Dale County in the first round and have now won five of their last six games. LAMP was the No. 7 team in 4A in the final rankings by the Alabama Sports Writers Association last week.

Despite missing out on the area title this season, Holtville feels like its playing its best baseball at the perfect time. The Bulldogs have won just six of their last 10 games but have gotten consistent performances in some of the biggest games over the last month.

“We’re playing pretty good baseball right now,” Baird said. “We still want to be more aggressive at the plate and jump on those early pitches. A lot of times that first one is the best one you’re going to see.”

Holtville’s offense has seen some cold streaks this season but the Bulldogs have scored at least five runs in seven consecutive games for the first time this year. During that stretch, Holtville has four players with at least one extra base hit and 10 players who have recorded at least one RBI.

Baird said he wants his players to get more aggressive at the plate because of LAMP’s ability to get ahead in the count on the mound. The Bulldogs have thrived off getting on base with walks this season but they do not expect to get many of those opportunities during their second-round series.

“They have some very good arms who pound the zone and get ahead in the count,” Baird said. “They don’t give away any outs so we have to be ready for every pitch.”

Holtville brings some good pitchers of its own to the table with their confidence running sky high after last week. Nobles and Washam combined to allow just six hits and one run across 14 innings against Dallas County.

Nobles, who had been dealing with a minor leg injury, did not have the amount of success he expects in his final two outings against area teams but has turned things around in the last week. Over his last 10 innings pitched, he has allowed just two hits and no runs while striking out 19 batters.

“This team feeds off Drew,” Baird said. “When he’s doing his thing on the mound, we have more confidence as a team.”

Nobles pitched just over 19 innings during Holtville’s run to the quarterfinals last season and Baird said that postseason experience has shown so far. The Bulldogs hope to use that experience to quickly settle down on the big stage as they attempt to make the final eight for the second consecutive year.

“Last year, when we got to this point it was kind of uncharted waters,” Baird said. “Just being there made us realize that it’s not any bigger than any other game. It’s just another baseball game so we just have to relax and play our game.”