High school playoffs: Round 1
Lakeview Academy at Walker, 4:30 p.m.
Commerce at Landmark Christian, 5:30 p.m.
Buford at Adairsville, 3 p.m.
Union County at Callaway, 3 p.m.
Crawford County at Jefferson, 4:30 p.m.
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe at Gainesville, 4 p.m.
White County at Cartersville, 4:30 p.m.
Tickets: The price of admission is $7 per GHSA rules.
CLEVELAND — White County baseball coach John Brown might have the equalizer it takes to counter the back-to-back defending state champions from Cartersville today in the first round of the state playoffs: a pitching staff that goes five deep.
While the Warriors (19-6) could have certainly hoped for an easier first-round draw for the Class AAA state playoffs, they aren’t overwhelmed with the task at hand to get the postseason rolling.
“I’d say that our pitching staff pretty much has defined our team this season,” Brown said. “Now we just have to go out and play to our ability.”
Even though the Hurricanes (20-6) have their own pair of hard-throwing righties, the Warriors even the score with juniors David Sosebee (7-0, 0.42 ERA) and Luke Crumley (5-2, 2.90) starting today’s doubleheader of the best-of-three series. And deeper in the rotation, White County has three younger pitchers who have produced when thrown into action, including Dylan Lee, Bo Medlock and Kyle Mills.
If the series goes to three games, Brown has no reservations about running one of his three primary relievers out for a game that will make or break their season.
“These guys are ready,” White County pitching coach Russ Chapman said. “They’ve done a good job this season.”
Due to his control, Sosebee will probably get the ball in Game 1. Brown says that his winningest pitcher has made it abundantly clear that he can consistently throw all of his pitches for strikes. He’s been a staple in White County’s pitching staff for three years now, winning six games in each of his first two seasons.
“David has a lot of command on the mound,” Brown said. “That’s what makes him a true pitcher.”
And Crumley, who is already verbally committed to the University of Georgia, has great velocity on his diet of three pitches, but can admittedly get away from the strike zone from time to time.
“Some times I might be a little outside the strike zone,” Crumley said. “I don’t think that it really matters which one of us throws first against Cartersville.
“We’re just ready to play.”
White County’s pitching staff faced a serious test around the midpoint of the season when Sosebee went down with a broken hamate bone in the base of his left hand, which happened when he rolled his wrist during a plate appearance against Lumpkin County.
Sosebee missed his next couple of scheduled appearances on the mound after breaking the bone in his non-throwing hand, which kicked off a four-game losing streak for the team. Even though he is now cleared to pitch, Sosebee, who was used to taking 200-300 swings per day, wears a wrap around his wrist and will not bat again for the remainder of the season.
“When David got hurt it was a big worry for us,” Brown said. “We didn’t know when he would be able to come back.”
Still, Brown says that White County helped separate itself a little bit from its nearest challenger at the time, North Hall, with wins against the Trojans and Lumpkin County prior to Sosebee’s injury.
Lee made his biggest impact with seven innings work in relief against Flowery Branch. White County rallied from three runs down in the seventh to win the game in nine innings.
The same game that Sosebee endured his injury, Medlock came in to shut the door on Lumpkin County to earn the win.
Lee, Mills and Medlock all have two wins each this season for White County.
Once White County had all its arms back following Sosebee’s injury, the Warriors knew they would have to finish strong to earn a playoff spot: they were joined by Creekview, North Hall and Lumpkin County in the hunt for the two playoff spots from the north subregion in Region 7-AAA.
However, White County managed to close things out strong by winning eight of nine, with the only loss coming to region champion Gainesville. The Warriors closed out with the fourth seed from the region.
And that strong finish is just the way that Brown wants to see his team playing, especially with a date against a perennial power like the Purple Hurricanes.
“It’s a little intimidating playing against the defending state champions, but we’re just going to go out there and battle like we would against anyone else,” Sosebee said.
“We’re confident that we’ll be able to get the job done.”