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Tigers travel to play Blacksher

Freddie Banks wants to talk turkey.

Mike Bass obliges.

The senior third baseman and head coach engage in a funny debate during Wednesday’s baseball practice. Bass says he’s already killed several gobblers this season, but Banks thinks otherwise. 
“You can probably put the barrel (of the gun) to your nose and still smell the new,” jokes Banks.

Players laugh, coaches laugh.

The Tigers are faced with a rare opportunity on Friday – a Class 1A playoff series at J.U. Blacksher – but clearly the team’s main focus is having fun. Certainly, they want to win, says Bass, but for a program that hasn’t even sniffed postseason play for some time this team is just relishing its chances. Especially at a small school with a football tradition.

“We’re just happy to be here,” says Bass. “We didn’t play a lot of games. We’re just trying to get back into baseball around here.”

McKenzie’s record (3-6) isn’t going to frighten anyone. Two of those wins came against in-county rival Butler County Magnet (the other vs. Hillcrest-Evergreen), but Bass says the team’s season-opening victory over the Panthers gave his team a needed jolt of confidence. The Tigers hadn’t won a baseball game in two years prior to that.

“We knew when we won the first game we had a chance to make the playoffs,” he says.

What the Tigers do have is enough athleticism and skill to make other teams respect them. Senior pitcher Dustin Shell is a solid number one on the mound, says Bass. Melvin Owens has the speed to track down long balls in the outfield, while fellow outfielder Calvin Henderson – the Tigers’ quarterback last fall – can accurately fire the ball to home plate. Banks is quick with a joke, but he also is pretty quick at third base and is one of the team’s top hitters, says Bass. Freshman Dustin Moorhead is a good shortstop who Bass just happened to discover could pitch in the Tigers’ win over Hillcrest-Evergreen.

Bass believes the Tigers could easily be carrying a winning record into Friday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve got about three or four baseball players who play fairly well and then we fill in the holes,” said Bass. “But everybody’s contributed…whether it’s by reaching base on balls in the game. And we’ve haven’t made a lot of errors on defense.”

McKenzie plays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at J.U. Blacksher. If the two teams split, a third game will be played on Saturday at 11 a.m.