The Bethlehem Christian Academy baseball team is in familiar territory.
The Knights are once again in the GISA Class A championship series after sweeping Robert Toombs Academy on the road Saturday in a semifinal matchup. BCA (20-7) won the opener 10-2 while the Knights earned a 9-6 victory in the second half of the doubleheader in Lyons.
Coach Colby May’s team will now travel to Crisp Academy in Cordele to battle for the state championship trophy. The Knights and Wildcats have met in the playoffs each of the past two seasons with Crisp Academy winning in 2012 and BCA winning in the 2013 rematch. The Wildcats advanced to the championship this year by sweeping David Emanuel Academy in the other semifinal series. The championship series will feature two coaches, both in their first seasons with their respective programs.
May is a former player at the University of Georgia who is in his first season as a varsity baseball coach.
Crisp Academy’s Tim Harris is enjoying success in his first year at Crisp Academy although he does have previous coaching experience, including working at Fullington Academy.
Some of the key players for the BCA Knights, were also vital parts of last season’s state championship and understand what it takes to win at this level.
“We are lucky and blessed to have players who can get it done,” Jacob Fincher said. “We have good coaches who expect a lot from us.”
Fincher said it didn’t really matter where the championship is played, as long as the team is competing for another title.
“It will be different playing the championship series on the road,” he said.
Luke Allen, who has been a key player on the pitcher’s mound, behind the plate at catcher and at the plate with his bat, said this year’s playoff journey is just as special as a season ago.
“It is just as exciting,” Allen said prior to Monday morning’s holiday practice session. “The challenge we will face will be somewhat different on the road. We are still a young team with no seniors. However, I think our team has what it takes to win at the highest level.”
Teammate P.J. Klein also praised his teammates and is eagerly awaiting a championship series once again.
“We are all looking forward to it,” Klein said. “I am proud of my teammates for what everyone has accomplished and the way the team has worked hard all year. We hope to cap the season with another championship. We know it will be tough, but as a player you want to go out there and face the best to show what you are made of. I believe in our team.”
Klein was the winning pitcher in the semifinal opener against Robert Toombs while Fincher earned the win in game two to clinch the series. Allen closed the door in both contests Saturday.
“Luke did a great job in both games of finishing the deal,” May said.
The semifinal series was the first time in Knight history the baseball team had competed on the road in the postseason. That fact alone impressed May.
“We definitely did a good job in going into unfamiliar territory,” the coach said. “We did a good job having quality at bats. Pitching-wise, we threw strikes. Offensively, we did a good job of executing when we needed to. It was a team effort. Our bats were on fire and woke up after the Fullington series. We weren’t ourselves in the quarterfinals even though we pieced together what we had to. It was a different story in the semifinals.”
Playing a close three-game series in the quarterfinals helped prepare the BCA players for their road test this past Saturday.
“It made us not take things for granted,” May said. “It was a wake-up call. We’ve had some challenging games and tough losses this year, but not every game has been tough. Tough games will always make you better. Going out and winning with ease doesn’t really prepare you for what you see in the playoffs.”
The BCA coaches and players are looking to focus on what they do rather than worrying about what Crisp Academy may or may not do when the state championship series begins.
“We just need to keep doing what we are capable of,” May said. “We have the necessary confidence to know we will bounce back even if some things don’t go our way. Crisp is going to be a good team and they are going to make good plays. We have to realize that we also have the ability to do positive things. It will be a good matchup for sure.”