ALBERTVILLE — To say it's been an impressive year for Fyffe athletics is an understatement.
In the fall, the Red Devils capped off their first season in Class 3A with a football state championship. Shortly after came a cheerleading state title, and then the boys basketball team surged to the school’s first state title in that sport earlier this month.
And now, the baseball team is off to a roaring start, sitting at 11-0 following a three-game sweep of rival Plainview this weekend, and sitting at No. 5 in the 3A poll in the first batch of Alabama Sports Writers Association baseball rankings released last week.
The key for the Red Devils and their hot start has been the deadly combination of pitching and defense, with those two elements helping Fyffe concede just 19 runs in their first 11 games this year.
“I feel like we’ve had some really good pitching and played pretty clean in the field,” Red Devils coach Brad Thomas said. “And then guys have been getting some timely hits.”
Leading the way on the mound has been a set of five experienced arms that gives Thomas confidence no matter who is out there, and depth so that if a pitching change is needed, there’s little drop off with the next arm on the hill. Those five arms are Tanner Cowart, Ike Rowell, Koby Harris and then the duo of Parker Godwin and Brody Dalton, who only recently re-joined the team following their run to the state basketball crown.
“It's a blessing, that’s all I can say, we have some guys who throw it pretty well,” Thomas said of his pitching staff. “That’s five guys that we feel we can roll out there and each gives us a chance to compete. They’ve pitched a lot of games and know how to locate the ball really well, and they have more than one pitch. As long as you can locate more than one pitch, it gives you an advantage and kind of keeps them mixed up.”
Their ability to keep hitters off-balance has resulted in nine games in which Fyffe pitching has racked up double-digit strikeouts. In addition to the strikeout prowess, the Red Devils staff has already recorded three shutouts, and has a combined no-hitter against Pisgah earlier in the season.
The additions of Dalton and Godwin have also been a boost to the Red Devils, who went the first month of games and practices without them, but their absence also was a benefit to the team, with a number of inexperienced players getting a chance to see the field, as well as having to put guys in positions where they may not have had much previous playing time, something Thomas hopes will benefit the team moving forward.
“We just tried to get some younger guys some game experience, and they did, and I think that’ll benefit them later on,” Thomas added. “Before those guys got back and then we had to play some different guys in spots and they haven’t been starting lately, but they gave us some good innings and contributed.”
The additions of Godwin and Dalton have also given a boost to the lineup, along with the return of Rowell’s bat after he hadn’t been able to take swings prior to the Plainview series.
The Red Devils have racked up 86 runs in their 11 games, which Thomas credits to the team’s unselfish nature, and just doing the little things they need to do to get runs across.
“I really feel like it’s guys trying to compete for each other,” Thomas said. “We’ve not hit tons of home runs or anything like that, we just try to do what we’re supposed to do at the plate, and that’s being unselfish and being team guys. If they need to get a bunt down, they get a bunt down and things like that.”
As if the strong pitching and lineup depth wasn’t enough, the defense behind them has shined as well, limiting errors and helping the pitching staff when opponents have made contact, with Thomas noting that big plays in the field helped them sweep all three games against rival Plainview this weekend.
Thomas mentioned sliding catches in the outfield from Ty Bell and Harris, a difficult catch from Jake Wooden, as well as strong play at second base from Riley West all being contributors to the 3-0 weekend.
On the season, the team has made just 13 errors in the field over the first 11 games.
“We had some huge plays against Plainview on Saturday,” Thomas said of the defense. “Ty Bell made a sliding catch in the outfield, Koby Harris as well, then Riley west made an outstanding play at second base. It gives your pitchers confidence too, that if they do put it in play, that they’ve got some guys behind them who are backing them up.”
As for the rest of the season, Thomas said the goal is simply just to play one game at a time, with a focus on area play being their main goal. That’s set to start Tuesday night with a series against Sylvania kicking off, with two more games scheduled for Wednesday and Friday against the Rams, before a trip on Saturday to Rome, Ga., for games at the home stadium of the Rome Braves.