Wildcats will open up against Mira Monte

No team wants to see one of their best games come in a finale. The No.3 seeded Taft varsity baseball team on the other hand hopes that their regular season finale was just a springboard of things to come as they get ready to kick off the CIF-CS Division IV playoffs Tuesday afternoon at home against the No.14 seeded Mira Monte.

“Getting the number three seed feels like our correct placement and exciting because it gives us a great shot to go deep in the playoffs if we continue to play like we have,” said Taft coach Anthony Reed.

The Wildcats will be taking on a Mira Monte team that is 10-16 overall and 4-6 in the South Yosemite League. If they get past the Lions they will host the winner of the No.11 Corcoran-No.6 Dos Palos game.

Yet, there is no guarantee that a good seed against a team with a losing record equates to a win. In 2011, the No.2 seeded Wildcats lost to No.15 seed Golden Valley. 

“All it takes is a couple mental errors and a couple of fortuitous hops to change the outcome of the game,” said Reed. “We just hope that our players continue to hear up like we have so far at the end of the season.”

While this will be the first time this season the teams have hooked up, there are some things Reed knows about Mira Monte including Xavier Salas who according to Reed batted .500 with 26 runs batted in, eight triples and 32 stolen bases.

“It looks like they have a few god hitters with above .300 averages,” he said.

Taft, 19-10 overall and 10-2 in the South Sequoia League, ended their regular season by defeating Shafter 20-1 on 20 hits. In order to keep that momentum going it will come down to pitching and defense.

“We will keep the momentum by pounding the zone with our pitching and letting our defense make plays like they have all season,” said Reed. “Our daily routine and game plan will the same. It’s up to our guys to stay focused and trust what we have been doing to be successful.”

While there are several keys to keeping the momentum going, Reed loves how the team is playing.

“I love that we have been playing some of our best baseball and the end of the season,” said Reed. “It’s awesome to see all the players buy into our game plans we’re really starting to take focused at bats. Our pitching and defensive work early in the season has paid huge dividends.”

The Wildcats will be getting some help during their playoff run with Tevin Howell, Noah Parsons, Christian Palacios and Jeremy Wilmer coming up from a JV team that went undefeated in league play. Reed says they can have a part in the playoff run.

“Most of them could be great off the bench as pinch hitters, especially the two lefties Howell and Palacios, given the right match up against a right,” said Reed.

Despite the positives, there are several concerns Reed has about the crowd differences and pressures of playoffs.

“It is my job to help the players block this out and slow down the game,” said Reed. “We don’t have to throw harder, hit further and rush things just because it is the playoffs.”

On the flip side Reed likes the idea of playing a playoff game at home.

“A home playoff game always creates a sense of pride in the community and makes for an exciting atmosphere for our players and coaches,” he said. “I feel like it allows us to stay a little calmer and focused because it’s a place we spend so much time at and makes for an easier transition into the playoffs.”

The first pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.