As his Bearcats prepare for yet another playoff series, Brent Patterson can’t help but smile and enjoy the occasion.
The longtime Cullman baseball coach has been part of numerous postseason runs during his impressive tenure with the program — five state championships and seven runner-up showings to be exact — but, despite that success, he’s never taken a single moment on the diamond or in the dugout for granted.
Don’t expect that to change as the Bearcats (21-17) get back to the grindstone ahead of their second-round clash against Chelsea.
“I’m getting older, and every day is a blessing with these guys,” Patterson said. “We’re very excited to be playing, and I really, really enjoy coaching this team. They work hard. We’ve struggled to find our identity, and we’ve spun our wheels at times this season. But the longer you get to play and the more you get to practice … you can find and hit your stride.”
Cullman will welcome the Hornets to Bill Shelton Field for a Friday doubleheader beginning at 4:30 p.m. Should the two teams split, a Game 3 tiebreaker would take place on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Chelsea eliminated the Black and Gold in the second round last season following a 7-2 win in that aforementioned tiebreaker.
And although revenge is an easy storyline heading into Friday, don’t expect Patterson to give it a second — or first — thought.
“I don’t care,” he said. “I don’t think it matters, either, because if we were playing anyone else we’d want to win just as badly. But if it gives someone extra incentive, then so be it. But to us, I think it’s just the next round and next opponent.”
Cullman netted 32 runs and 25 hits in an opening-round sweep of Shades Valley — its 20th straight first-round triumph.
The Hornets, meanwhile, advanced in the Class 6A playoffs after a first-round sweep of Arab.
Andrew Floyd, a Southern Union State commit, struck out 11 in a three-hit shutout as Chelsea won the opener 1-0 before corralling five seventh-inning runs in Game 2 and eventually securing a 10-8 victory in eight innings. Left-hander Reid Gongwer, a South Alabama commit, is another dependable arm for the Hornets, who have won seven straight games.
“They pitch it well, really competitive, well-coached, senior-laden,” Patterson said of Chelsea. “They’re a quality opponent, and we will have to play our best to advance. But that’s how it should be at this point. We’ve got to put good at-bats together and, as always, pitch it and defend it.”