As Tiger coach Taylor Talbot puts it, that’s an extra season’s worth of games, and that postseason experience goes a long way.
“This is a mentally-tough game, and I think our guys do a good job of not panicking,” Cedar Bluff coach Taylor Talbot said. “They have a good approach, as far as what they should do.”
One such player who’s a veteran when it comes to the postseason is Cedar Bluff junior pitcher Levi Mintz. Mintz said he felt good on the mound Friday, and that good feeling was bad news for the Panthers.
Mintz, who tossed a no-hitter in last week’s first-round Class 1A playoff series against Hackleburg, had command of his pitches in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against Collinsville.
The Tigers won the first game 6-3, then Mintz slammed the door in the second with a 6-1 victory that propels the No. 7 Tigers (25-12) to the state quarterfinals. They will take on the winner of the series between top-ranked Shoals Christian and No. 3 Athens Bible next weekend.
Shoals Christian took the first game 10-5 on Friday. Game two was suspended due to rain and is scheduled to be resumed on Saturday at 1 p.m. Game three, if necessary, will follow the second game on Saturday.
Mintz gave up six hits, had up a pair of walks and struck out 11 batters to earn the win in game two against the Panthers (15-15), who made their first playoff appearance since 2002 last week with a series win over Tharptown.
Mintz gave up the Panthers’ only run in the seventh inning and was aided by a pair of double plays turned by the Tiger defense late in the game.
“Everyone has good days and bad days. I felt good today, and I hope I keep feeling good,” Mintz said. “My pitches were working well for me, and my defense backed me up really well. We had one error I think, but other than that, they were really solid and really good behind me. They were getting after it and making plays for me.”
Collinsville was no pushover, however. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Curtis Abernathy in the first inning of game one, but like seasoned teams do, the Tigers didn’t panic.
Cedar Bluff rallied with a run in its half of the first and five more in the second to take 6-3 lead. The Tigers sent 10 batters to the plate against Collinsville starter Josh Gogus in the second, which was more than enough breathing room for Abernathy. He claimed the win after going all seven innings with seven strikeouts.
“We come out having confidence that we could put the ball in play,” Collinsville coach Riley Edwards said. “I feel like they did what they were supposed to do, but we just couldn’t carry it over throughout the night. I felt like in game one we came out and hit the ball well, but Abernathy is an excellent pitcher, and in game two, Mintz did an excellent job. We just didn’t zero in on them. You can’t take anything away from either one of them. They’re really good.”
At the plate for the Tigers, Rihied Harris was 3 for 4 with a double and a RBI. Dalton Cosby was 2 for 3 with two RBIs. C.J. Gilreath, Kaleb Clark and Austin McCullough each had a hit.
For Collinsville, Josh Gogus was 2 for 3 with a walk, a double and a RBI. He also suffered the loss with three strikeouts. Nathan Coker, Tray Reed, Brett Bowen and Clay Coker each had a hit.
Game two was Mintz’s from the beginning. He gave up only one hit through five innings, and by that point, the Tiger offense had provided him with enough run support. Cedar Bluff scored a run in the first, two in the second and three in the sixth to take a 6-0 lead.
McCullough led the Tiger offense by going 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles. Harris was 2 for 3 with a double and a RBI. Estes went 2 for 4. Lot Maxell had a two-run triple. C.J. Gilreath, Dalton Cosby and Mintz all had a hit. Mintz also had a RBI.
Gogus, Bowen, Colby Helms, Jesse Chandler and Clay Coker all had a hit for Collinsville.
Nathan Coker suffered the loss. He worked five innings and gave up all six runs. He finished with two walks and four strikeouts. C.J. Jones finished out the rest of the game on the hill.
“I feel like our kids played hard all night,” Edwards said. “We just didn’t catch a break here and there, and it piled up on us. I can’t say anything but positive things about this group. They’ve worked hard. They’ve put their dues in. I’m proud of them.”