Bulldogs aim for playoffs

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By D. Mark Mitchell

Sports Columnist

BASEBALL
The Opelika High baseball team continues to play at a high level, winning 23 games, as of the date of this column, against 6 losses.
Coach Billy Jones is in his second season as the head coach. Jones was a assistant coach under former head coaches Barry Hightower and Scott Sullivan.
The OHS baseball team has not made the playoffs since 2008.
That season was the best in school history, 41 wins,  4 losses and a second place finish in the state.
Opelika is almost always competitive in baseball. We have a “farm system:’” Dixie Youth, Dixie Boys and the Big Dawgs travel teams. But OHS has only recorded two winning seasons since 2008. Scott Sullivan was 16-15 in 2013 and Coach Jones was 27-9 last season. Jones’ teams have won 50 games since he became head coach one year ago.
His coaching staff consist of Zach Blatt, former OHS and Auburn University pitcher and Rick Wade, former head coach at Robert E. Lee, Coosa Central and, most recently, assistant coach at Beauregard.
Coach Jones knew the program was on the verge of winning on a regular basis. He decided pitching would be the most important position to address. Jones and Blatt decided that every player would pitch in practice in an effort to find a “diamond in the rough” or develop a player into a pitcher.
The philosophy worked, and several players are now pitching in games for the first time. I must say, as crazy as it sounds, it has worked. Harrison Morris did not pitch much while growing up. Morris is now a member of the pitching rotation.
Other players also contribute by playing a position for the first time.
The kids buy in to this style because it works. Fifty wins in a season and two-thirds proves it.
The OHS baseball team is enjoyable to watch. Come to a game and you will see a group of players hustling, bunting, running the bases aggressively, creating runs and they run on and off the field!
The Dawgs played Beauregard last night in the Lake Martin Classic in Alexander City. The game was not complete at press time.
Opelika can wrap up the Area championship with two wins over Valley. The Dawgs travel to Fairfax Tuesday for a single game with Valley at 4:30 at Crestview Field. The Bulldogs will host the Rams Wednesday, April 8, at Bulldog Park. The first game of a scheduled doubleheader starts at 5pm
TENNIS
The Opelika boys tennis team defeated Trinity of Montgomery 6-3 this week.  Single winners were Winston Smith T, Scot Carpenter and Ross Herring.
The girls and boys played Benjamin Russell yesterday in a important Sectional Match. The results were not available at press time.
SOCCER
The OHS soccer team played Pacelli to a 1-1 draw this week. The game was stopped due to bad weather which included lightning. Austin Black scored the Opelika goal with an assist from J Arthur Grubbs.
The Dawgs played AHS at Duck Samford Stadium last night. The results were not available at press time.

SOFTBALL
Opelika softball team went 1-3 in the Gulf Shores Invitational. The Lady Bulldogs, 11-13, travel to Huntsville for the Bob Jones Tournament.
OHS hosts Valley Tuesday April 7 at West Ridge, first pitch is 4 pm
TRACK
Select members of the girls and boys track teams were invited to the Mobile Meet of Champions,  a select meet that is by invitation only.
This is THE elite track meet in the South.
FOOTBALL
The OHS football team will start spring practice at the end of April. The Dawgs have 15 days to complete 10 days of practice and scrimmage.
Opelika will play Park Crossing May 15.
I will preview spring training in the coming weeks.
KEEPING UP
You can follow Opelika Athletics daily, by listening to the On The Mark radio program 7-9 am on WTLM 1520AM and online at iheartradio.com
Search WTLM. Jeff Sasser and I host the two hour radio show focusing on local sports.
You can also follow me on “Twitter” @VOICEOFTHEDAWGS
D.Mark Mitchell is sports director for iHeart Media, Alabama Dixie Boys State director and vice president of the  A-O Sports Council.

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