Raiders back in state playoffs following four-year hiatus
BY BEN MUNRO
No one in a Madison County uniform had played in a postseason game heading into this season.
But the Raiders have said good riddance to that distinction with 18 wins in region play.
Winners of 12 of their last 13 games, Madison County was slated to close out its regular season Wednesday with a road trip to Alcovy (results of that game weren’t available at press time). But win or lose, the Raiders knew long before that bus ride that they’d secured their first playoff trip in four years.
Coach Charlie Griffeth said it’s good to be back.
“Yeah, it is,” the veteran coach said. “Me and (assistant coach) Ken (Morgan) were talking about it last night. It just feels good again.”
Madison County plated 43 runs in a recent four-game stretch, culminating with a 10-0 pounding of Dacula Friday to clinch the state playoff spot.
Then for good measure, the Raiders beat second-place Loganville 4-0 Monday behind Taylor Hart’s one-hitter to keep slim hopes alive (as of press time) for a no. 2 seed in the state playoffs.
For that to happen, the Raiders would have had to win their Wednesday game against Alcovy, while both Loganville and Salem would have to lose (Loganville was to face last-place Cedar Shoals, while Salem was playing Eastside).
If there’s no change in the standings, the Raiders would be a four seed and would likely face Lakeside of Dekalb. Fans can check MadisonCountyBaseball.com for details about the first round of the playoffs as they become available.
Perhaps Griffeth’s only reservation about the playoffs is that his team can’t start now. As memorable as the regular season has been, he’d rather not have this team sit.
“You hate it, an eight-day layoff,’ Griffeth said.
The Raiders qualified for the state playoffs for three-straight years (2002-2004) before the postseason hiatus settled in.
Griffeth said he’s happy that this senior class will now get the experience of playing in a state tournament. The coach had kind words to say about this group, noting that infielder James Brewer, a senior transfer, “fit right in” on the Raider roster; that pitcher-outfielder Blaine Seagraves has “paid his dues” and been an ultimate team player; and that pitcher Taylor Hart has improved by leaps and bounds since his freshman year.
And if Madison County continues its recent play in the postseason, those seniors will certainly play a few more games in a Madison County uniform.
Heading into Wednesday’s season finale with Alcovy, the Raiders were arguably playing the best baseball in the region.
The Raiders’ winning ways are a result of superb defense, strong pitching and timely hitting. Griffeth noted that Madison County has been getting two-out hits and not leaving any runners in scoring position stranded.
“Yeah, we all got contagious and started hitting it again together,” Griffeth said.
At press time, the Raiders had a shot at their first 20-win season since the 2004 region championship year, heading into the Alcovy game at 19-6. Griffeth said this is a team that’s proved its mettle.
“It’s been trying at times,” Griffeth said. “We’ve had to work to get where we’re at. It wasn’t easy. The guys just kept believing.”
For more on baseball coverage see this week's edition of The Madison County Journal.