By Gary Lloyd
Clay-Chalkville head baseball coach Brandon Johnson doesn’t like to watch the high school baseball playoffs after his team has been eliminated.
But after his Cougars were eliminated by Grissom in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs this spring, he encouraged his players to watch experienced teams like Hoover and travel to Montgomery to see rival Hewitt-Trussville play for the state title.
Johnson wanted his young team to see how those teams played, to see what the big stage looked like so that his players would be prepared for it in the future. Clay-Chalkville didn’t handle the big stage very well this season, Johnson said, even in wins.
Clay-Chalkville posted a 26-10 record and won the Class 6A, Area 13 championship. The team was eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Johnson called the season a “successful failure.”
“I hope our mindset has changed, but saying your mindset has changed and changing your mindset are two totally different things,” Johnson said.
Clay-Chalkville posted a 2-2 record against Class 5A state semifinalist Pinson Valley and Class 6A state runner-up Hewitt-Trussville. Both wins came against its opponents’ aces — Auburn signee Bailey Chesser from Pinson Valley and Louisiana-Monroe signee Grayson Jones from Hewitt-Trussville.
“Our whole mindset is different,” said Cougars rising junior pitcher Matthew Calvert. “Watching them make deep runs in the playoffs just gives us motivation to be on that level next year and ultimately winning the state championship.”
Johnson said developing a deep pitching staff and getting better offensively are keys for a successful 2014 season. The team will return many contributors.
Calvert said the team getting to where it wants to go begins with setting the bar high and expecting to reach its goals.
“If you set your expectations high and go out and play your best baseball and give it all you have day in and day out, you’ll achieve that goal and raise that trophy,” he said.
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