Commerce and Bowdon faced each other on the Tigers’ home turf back in February. They’ll do it again on Wednesday but with much higher stakes.
The squads will play a doubleheader, starting at 1 p.m., at Commerce in the second round of the Class A-Public state tournament. A third game, if needed, is set for Thursday (time TBD).
The series was supposed to begin Tuesday but was postponed due to rain. The winner will play Johnson County or Charlton County in the quarterfinals.
The Tigers (22-10) beat the Red Devils 6-2 during that February meeting, but Commerce coach Steve Cotrell said this is a much different juncture in the season.
“Everybody will be a little bit different,” Cotrell said. “The chemistry will be a little bit different from earlier in the year. (Coach Brian) Vance does a great job with them. They’ll be ready. They’ll be fundamentally sound. We’ll have to be ready to play.”
Vance, a former Jackson County assistant coach, has guided his Bowdon team to a 16-14 record. The Red Devils went 11-4 in Region 6-A Public, earning a No. 2 seed.
Cotrell is certainly happy to have home-field advantage for this series.
“Thank goodness we get to play them here instead of going up there,” Cotrell said. “That’s tough place to play up there.”
Commerce is coming off a home doubleheader sweep of Marion County Thursday (April 29) in the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers piled up a combined 24 runs and 20 hits in the two wins. Commerce opened with a 12-0 win in five innings and then won 12-2 in six innings in the nightcap.
Kane Goldman hit two home runs on the night.
The Tigers built a 10-0 lead after three innings — including a six-run third inning — in its Game 1 win. Matt Martin and Colin Welch both went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Goldman went 1-for-2 with a two-run home run in the third inning. Tyler Herring (1-for-1) and Hampton Hutto (1-for-2) also drove in two runs each.
Cayden Lord then went 2-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs in Game 2. Goldman went 2-for-4 as well with two RBIs. He hit a solo home run in the sixth inning.
Others with multi-hit games were Martin (2-for-4, RBI) and Welch (2-for-3, RBI). Hutto (1-for-2) and Gray Holbrook (1-for-4) both doubled and drove in two runs each.
Cotrell said his team improved at the plate in the two wins.
“We got better offensively with our approaches,” he said. “We worked on some things at practice, and coach (Dustin) Allen really worked with them down there, too. So, we kind of just put our heads together … I thought we did a better job overall. We’re still taking too many called strike threes.”
Meanwhile, Commerce pitching allowed just five hits between the two games.
Will Slater crafted an abbreviated one-hit shutout in Game 1, striking out seven batters in five innings. He issued four walks.
Lord threw four innings in Game 2, allowing two hits and two runs (one earned) with two strikeouts. Welch came on an threw two shutout innings in relief, allowing two hits and striking out two batters with two walks.
“I thought our pitchers did a good job, for the most part, getting ahead and making the hitters swing at pitches they didn’t want to swing at,” Cotrell said. “And, defensively, we made plays that we needed to make where pitchers can stay in a routine … I just thought altogether (Thursday), defensively, we were kind of in tune.”
This marks the third-straight year (not counting the discontinued 2020 season due to COVID-19) that Commerce has reached at least the second round of the state playoffs.
“It’s always good to win and get that first one under your belt and move on to the next one and take one game at a time,” Cotrell said.