After being pushed to the brink of elimination in each of its first two playoff series, the Elkhart baseball team took care of business with ease in the regional quarterfinals.
The Elks defeated Warren in the best-of-three series, 2-0, by a combined score of 11-1.
But, ironically, EHS coach John Adair credited being pushed to the brink in the first round with the team’s ability to pull it all together as the Elks’ playoff run keeps going.
“To me, losing a game in each of the first two series has actually helped us,” Adair said. “We’ve been in a situation where it was 1-and-1 and we had to win and now I think it gave us a little more of an edge.”
Elkhart takes on No. 2 Salado (Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association poll) in the regional semifinals this weekend, with Game 1 set for 7 p.m. Friday at Franklin High School.
The Elks will hand the ball to Jordan White on the mound in Game 1 against the Eagles just as they did in Game 1 against the Warriors. In the regional quarterfinals, it paid off big.
The Howard College-bound senior pitched a complete game, striking out 10 and allowing only one run, which was unearned.
He’ll hope to give his team the same boost Friday.
“We play our best when we get out quick, when we get out exploding fast,” White said. “It takes teams back and other teams hear what we do to teams, and that helps us.”
White is one of a handful of Elks who are hoping to lead the team back to the state tournament after a heartbreaking end to their 2012 campaign.
He stressed, however, that every win until that point is simply taking another step and nothing more.
“Until you get to state and win that last game...until you win your last game you haven’t accomplished anything yet,” White said. “That’s our attitude. We’re just pressing forward trying to get back to state.”
The Elks have used that playoff experience to their advantage on this playoff run, something they didn’t have at their disposal last year, when the Elks had only one player who had ever won a playoff series.
Now, the majority of the team has at least been on a team that advanced to the state tournament.
“I think the experience is a big deal to us,” senior second baseman Brian Johnson said. “We’ve been deep in the playoffs. We have an advantage because we’ve been there.”
That experience will again come in handy against Salado, who Adair said boasts a powerful pitching staff and strong defense, very similar to Warren.
The Eagles can also hit, he said, so the Elks will need to put together strong games to advance to the regional final for the second-straight year.
“The key is very similar to what we did last week, which is take care of business with their pitchers,” Adair said. “We have to be productive at the plate and make their pitchers work, play solid defense and hopefully pitch as well as we did (against Warren).”
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org