Take it one game at a time. It’s the message coaches everywhere live by and usually preach to their teams on a regular basis.
But as the Jonathan Alder baseball team makes its fourth state tournament appearance in the last five years, coach Craig Kyle is actually encouraging his guys to not only think about the Division II state semifinal its going to play at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 6, against Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin at Huntington Park in Columbus, but also the game it will play if it wins.
“We’re going there with the idea of winning two games,” Kyle said. “We usually don’t talk about the next game or talk about winning a state championship but we’re talking about it now. We want the guys to know what’s in front of them if they win this game.
“It won’t be easy, but we’ve got a bunch of competitive guys that are ready to play.”
The state semifinal opponent isn’t a stranger to championship baseball, despite its 17-11 record Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin is a dangerous squad that enters the state tournament on a roll. Kyle knows his opponent’s record doesn’t mean a thing other than a fact that it’s played a tough schedule.
“Historically they’re a great program,” Kyle said. “They’re a well-coached team that plays a solid schedule and I think their record is deceiving. They played some stiff competition up in the Cleveland area. They’re a good team. They have two lefty pitchers who are really good and lead the way.”
The lefty pair are Ryan Falls, who has an ERA under a run a game and Connor Kaucic.
Alder (27-4) had a solid showing against lefthanders this season and the prospect of seeing a steady diet of lefthanded hurlers isn’t anything that worries Kyle.
“Lefthanders haven’t affected us this year,” the coach said. “We’ve probably seen more of them this year than we’ve ever seen.”
The coach said his team will continue to do things the way it has all season long, He doesn’t see any reason to change things up, just because the games are more meaningful.
“You don’t reinvent who you are just because you get to the state Final Four,” Kyle said. “You do what you did to get you here.”
For Alder that means playing strong defense, getting solid pitching and finding ways to move runners around the basepaths.
The Pioneers played two tough games in the regional tournament and have more postseason experience than all the other D-II teams remaining, except for maybe Bloom-Carroll. The Bulldogs (27-2), the 2013 D-III state runner-up, will play Sandusky Perkins (26-5) also on Friday.
The two semifinal winners will play in the state championship game at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 7.
Kyle likes what he’s seen out of his squad in the last few weeks and said his players are focused and ready for this weekend.
“I think everyone is playing at the top of their game,” he said. “I think we’re comfortable at the plate and on the mound and we’re playing really well.”
ND-CL has played well as of late too, winning its last eight games and scoring at least seven runs in seven of those eight contests.
“We’re not worried about anybody else but ourselves,” Kyle said. “We’re going to control what we can control.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.