Richmond Hill sports fans are familiar with Lee County, but Stacy Bennett wants his baseball team to forget the Trojans.
“We really preach having a short-term memory,” the coach said. “That’s important for any sport, but especially for baseball because it’s a game of failure. If you think too much about what happened instead of focusing on what’s next, it can snowball on you.”
The Wildcats travel to Lee County for the first round of the state tournament, with a double-header scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. The “if necessary” game in the best-of-three series would be 3 p.m. Friday.
Lee County beat Richmond Hill 11-1 and 10-0 in the Elite Eight last year. The Trojans also knocked the Wildcats out of the state playoffs in football last November.
“The guys are excited,” Bennett said. “We’ve been playing some really good ball the last couple of weeks.”
Richmond Hill finished 19-9 overall and 6-6 in Region 2-AAAAAA, good for the No. 4 seed. Lee County stands at 22-7 overall and is the No. 1 seed in Region 1-AAAAAA with a 10-2 record.
The Wildcats finished the regular season with three consecutive wins against Bradwell last week. That was preceded with a 1-2 split against Glynn Academy, with the last two games being decided by a single run. Before that, Richmond Hill split a pair of games with Ware County, the top-ranked team in the state in AAAAA.
“Glynn was probably the best series we played all year,” Bennett said. “We had some timely hits and played good, clean baseball. The tournament is a new season and we feel good about it.”
On paper, Richmond Hill holds the advantage over Lee County in several categories. The Wildcats have a team batting average of .278 with three home runs and have five players in double-digit RBIs. The Trojans are hitting .272 with one home run and four players in double-digit RBIs.
But Bennett warns against relying too much on offensive numbers.
“No matter how good of a hitting team you are, you can go ice old at the plate any time,” he said. “The two things you can control are pitching and defense and we are right where we want to be with those.”
While the teams have similar fielding percentages, the Wildcats boast a team ERA of 1.54 with 240 strikeouts on the season. Lee County’s team ERA is 2.04 with 152 strikeouts.
“If it’s offense versus pitching and defense, I’ll take pitching and defense any day,” Bennett said.