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COLUMN: Ready or not, tourney time is here

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Lady Bearcats surprisingly good, Bearcats could be post-season surprise

By John Herndon

It's safe to say that the 2013 baseball-softball season has been one full of surprises around Anderson County.

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Not many expected the Anderson County High School softball team to be sitting at 21-9 heading into this week. Few really thought the Lady Bearcats would spend some time in the Top 25, although they dropped out last week. And not many really thought of Anderson as a legitimate threat to make its first state tournament appearance since 2008.

None of that is a sure thing, obviously, but heading into the post-season, which starts Monday night for softball, Anderson is a big favorite to win the 30th District and a solid second pick, behind Oldham County, to take the Eighth Region.

It doesn't hurt that both tournaments will be at Anderson this year.

More on the Lady Bearcats in a little bit.

On the baseball side of the Anderson athletic complex, there have been a few surprises too. Maybe not to those who work with the team. Before the season started, L.W. Barnes and his coaching staff knew the team would be young and knew it could take some lumps.

It's been somewhat of a surprise that the renovated field, which was supposed to be ready when the season started, then was set to re-open in mid-April, was practically dormant until Monday night, just a few days before the season ends.

But there was little the Bearcats or those around the program could do about that problem.

What has really been surprising is that the Bearcats have played like a young team. They have had their moments, like Monday's thrashing of Scott County and a big win over Louisville Eastern earlier in the year, but they've also had separate losing streaks of five and six games.

That has not been the norm at Anderson since Barnes took over the program in 1999.

What has been the norm is a pitching staff that develops by tournament time.

Don't look now, but there are signs the arms are coming around at the right time. Josh Brown threw a very strong game against Scott County Monday and Brandon Eliadis was outstanding against Male on Saturday.

No, Anderson does not have a big-time hammer like Matt McWilliams or David Todd from years past. But with the 30th District Tournament getting underway next Tuesday night at Shelby County, Anderson is quietly emerging as a team that could be a bit of a surprise then too.

Because the Bearcats faltered in every district seeding game this year, they will be the No. 4 seed and have the daunting task of going up against Collins, a team ranked in the state's Top 10 most of the year, in the first round. Suffice it to say few expect Anderson to last more than one game in the post-season.

There won't be a prediction coming from here, but Anderson is not your normal take-the-obligatory-beating four seed. Anderson feels it has a chance against Collins.

Collins beat the Bearcats 4-2 back on May 3. “That game shows we can play with them,” Barnes said Monday night. “The main thing is we have to compete. If we do that, we will be all right.”

On the girls' side, it is just the opposite. Anderson will be the No. 1 seed , playing Spencer County in the district opener Monday night. The Lady Bearcats have outscored 30th district foes, 39-4, in six games and have recorded five shutouts.

And while Spencer was only 2-25 after games of the weekend, Anderson can't just throw its gloves and bats on the field. The last time the teams played, Anderson escaped with a 1-0 win. Last week, Spencer put a scare in Sacred Heart, a team that has won 25 games. SHA defeated Spencer, 4-2 last week.

Few would dispute that Anderson is, by a large margin, the best team in the 30th District this year, but no one would assert the Lady Bearcats are unbeatable. In a one-and-done tournament and with all of the quirks in softball and baseball, anything really can happen.

For his part, Anderson softball coach Brian Glass believes the Lady Bearcats are ready.

“We have been really stressing intensity & mental toughness so I look for us to play well,” he says.

We'll learn how it all plays out starting next week.

 

Comment at www.theandersonnews.com.