By Gary Lloyd
TRUSSVILLE — The approach will not be any different when Hewitt-Trussville hosts Pelham on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Phil English Field.
Pelham defeated Hewitt-Trussville for the Class 6A state championship last season in Montgomery. It was head coach Jeff Mauldin’s first year at Hewitt-Trussville after spending the previous six at Pelham. Pelham’s first-year head coach, Sean Anderson, was and is one of Mauldin’s best friends.
Those were the storylines last May and still are as the teams gear up for a rematch Saturday.
But Hewitt-Trussville’s focus is on the present.
“Baseball is hard enough as it is,” said junior shortstop Carter Pharis. “Just keep playing the game. (Coach Mauldin) talks a lot about process and how to play the game right. That’s the biggest thing. We’re not going to approach it any differently than any other game. It’s just another game.”
Pelham defeated the Huskies 3-2 in Game 1 of the state finals last year and closed out the series with a 1-0 victory in Game 2. They were two of the best games Pharis said he’s seen in a while.
“They’re going to be as solid as they were last year,” Pharis said. “We’re going to be playing a great team in Pelham.”
But both teams’ strengths this year are different. The rosters have some new names. Both have played some of the toughest schedules to date in 2014.
“You want to play that caliber of people before you get to the playoffs,” Mauldin said of Pelham. “It’s going to be a great Saturday.”
Pelham’s roster is littered with college prospects. Junior catcher Hunter Stovall will play at Mississippi State. Junior infielder Sam Finnerty is heading to South Carolina. Senior pitcher Jack Pierce, who pitched in the 1-0 win over Hewitt-Trussville last season, will play at Jacksonville State. Junior pitcher Connor Radcliff will pitch at Samford. And there are others.
“That community is a great baseball community,” Mauldin said. “They’re just loaded.”
Hewitt-Trussville’s roster is also full of college prospects. Five players are going to junior colleges, while four more will play at four-year schools.
Hewitt-Trussville senior pitcher Alec Talley said he remembers last year’s series, in which he pitched in the final game, as a “battle all the way to the end.”
“Both teams played their hearts out,” Talley said.
Talley said this game was not circled on the calendar.
“It’s just going to be another game on our schedule, and we’ll just come out and play and give it everything we’ve got,” he said.
There is another interesting sidebar to Saturday’s matchup. Mauldin’s son, Tyler, turns 13.
“He’s fired up we’re playing Pelham on his birthday,” Mauldin said. “Hopefully his birthday present is a win. That’s what he told me he wanted.”
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.