THE SPORTS BUZZ for April 29: Bearcat baseball's first step to defending regional title comes with top seed

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Winning regular season title important

By John Herndon

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So, I take the mound with the bases loaded and nobody out. Enjoy.

--John Herndon

Anderson baseball going for a regular season district championship Thursday night

I never thought I would see the day when Anderson County is making sure that every pitcher on its staff is ready and available for a game against Eminence on Thursday night. The reason is simple. Two days after the Bearcats pounded Shelby County by a 9-4 count, they faltered with a 3-1 loss at Spencer County. If Anderson wins as expected Thursday night, it will send the race for the top seed in the district tournament into a three-way tie.

The tie-breaker when three teams or more split is runs scored in distrcit games.  It would appear that Anderson has a major advantage on the tiebreaker as it has allowed just seven runs in district games. Spencer has allowed 11 and Shelby County 12.

So, if the Bearcats win, it does not matter how big the margin is, but that they hold Eminence to three runs or less. What is at stake is the first round game in the district. Anderson has been the regional favorite since the season started, with Shelby ranked second. However, Spencer has shown time and again over the years that it is capable of pulling an upset, just like it did in the regular season win over Anderson County on April 16. In an elimination game, you want the path of least resistance, which should be Eminence. The Warriors have not won a district game since beating Henry County in 2004. They have not even avoided the mercy rule in a district game since 2006. Get the top seed in the distrcit and you will play Eminence. Be second or third and you run the risk of going home early.

Last year, you probably remember, Anderson set a state scoring record against a depleted Eminence team, winning 58-0. In that one, Anderson coach L.W. Barnes substituted freely very early.

That probably won't happen this time. Three runs or less will be the buzz this time.

My question is why has Anderson become such a solid baseball program? When the Bearcats made the regional semi-finals in 1999, it marked the first time that had happened in 16 years. Since then, Anderson has won three regional titles, and been runner-up three other times.

I think it starts at the top with coach L. W. Barnes and assistant Chris Copenhaver, but it has to go deeper than that. Your thoughts?