Tigers eye playoff redemption

Published 7:28 pm Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Behind a dominant outing from Austin Odom, the Luverne High School Tigers are heading into the playoffs on a high note after shutting out Central Hayneville 7-0 in Saturday’s area championship game

The Lions’ offense was all but silenced by Odom, who struck out seven batters and limited the opposition to three hits.

Odom also helped his own cause at the plate, tagging the CHHS for two doubles and three RBIs.

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Antavious Brown chipped in with two RBIs and a run scored, while Taylor Grant and Marcel McMillian each scored two runs and drove in another.

The Tigers return to the playoffs after being eliminated in the second round last season, which head coach Andre Parks said was a disappointing conclusion.

On Friday, they start the road to redemption with a double header at home against the New Brockton High School Gamecocks. The first game will begin at 4:30 p.m., with the second at 7 p.m.

If neither team wins both games, a third will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“From everything I’ve heard about them, they’ve got a good coach, so I’m expecting a well-coached team, a feisty team and a good series,” Parks said.

He said both Luverne and New Brockton were ranked in the top 10 earlier in the season, so it could be a hard-fought ball game.

Three-year team veterans Zane Jones (senior, first base) and Uriah Brown (junior, catcher) said the Tigers have matured since their last attempt at the state title. Both think they’ll fare better this year.

“Last year, we had a lot of individuals playing,” Jones said. “This year, we’ve come together a lot more and play as a team.”

“This year’s team, I think, has more leadership,” Brown added. “We set examples for the younger players and that pushes us all to do better. And I think we’re more experienced than last year’s team. We were pretty young last year.”

Senior fielder Marcel McMillian is a newcomer to the team, but he says he’s excited about making the playoffs his first year and feels the team has earned a shot at the title.

“With all the work we put up over the summer and all we do at practice, I think we deserve to get it all,” he said.

McMillian said he’s seen the team and himself grow over the course of the season.

His first game, he said, was “rough” – he struck out each time he stepped to the plate.

Now, he’s one of the team’s statistically top hitters, a transformation for which he credits Parks’s influence at practice.

“If we just play as best as we can play and do all the little things right, we won’t have any problems,” he said.

Jones also thinks the Tigers could go all the way this season.

“If we stick together and play as a team,” he said, “the coaches have told us all season that there’s no telling how good we are, because we still haven’t seen it.”

Parks said the playoffs are not a new territory for the team – they’ve made it 12 out of the 13 years he’s coached – but Luverne hasn’t made it deep since winning the state championship in 2010.

Like his players, he said the team is better than it was last year and he’s eager to see how far it can go.

“We have a little more team speed, a little more team power and a little more overall depth,” he said. “But I think only time will tell how we stack up.”

Parks said the playoff games will follow the same three-game schedule every week for the next four weeks.