Cullman’s baseball team heads to Montgomery this week in search of a single accomplishment.
Bringing home a Blue Map trophy.
Although the Class 6A No. 7 Bearcats (28-13) are making their fifth trip to the state capital in six years, the tradition-rich program has won only one title during that exceptional stretch (2015) while finishing runners-up on three separate occasions (2014, 2016 and 2017).
Most teams would be thrilled with such an outstanding run of success.
Cullman, however, is tired of settling for second place.
So when the Bearcats duke it out with Chelsea (26-13) — the three-game series is scheduled to begin Thursday at 7 p.m. at Paterson Field and continue Friday at 4 p.m. at Riverwalk Stadium with an if-necessary clash slated for 7 p.m. — they’ll be looking to flip the script.
And Cullman’s Brent Patterson is using historyas a guide on what to -- or rather not -- change.
“If you don’t look back on the past and your experiences, then you’re not taking advantage of the fact that you’ve been there before,” the longtime coach said. “Sometimes, we got down there and got dominated by arms that were just phenomenal. Sometimes, we got down there and didn’t play up to our potential. Other times, we got down there and did exactly what we did all year and, as a result, came away with a state championship.
“You want to look back and think about what you did right and what you did poorly and always try to go into this series playing the best you can possibly play.”
Both teams are competing at a high level heading into Thursday’s clash.
The Hornets are 14-3 in their past 17 contests and have beaten Northridge, No. 6 Faith Academy, No. 1 Russell County and No. 2 Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa en route to notching the program’s first-ever berth in the state championship series.
The Bearcats have triumphed 18 times in their past 20 outings, eliminating Albertville, Pell City, No. 3 Hazel Green and No. 8 Hueytown to punch their ticket to Montgomery for the 12th time since 2002.
“With this bunch right here, it’s going to be going down and doing what we’ve done all year long,” Patterson said. “We’re not the kind of team that can go out there and hit six home runs in a series. That’s not us.
“We’ve got to have some great at-bats, throw a lot of strikes, play great defense and get timely hits. When we’ve done that, we’ve won. When we haven’t, it’s been a coin flip. The same things win baseball games, regardless of where you’re playing. Execute those things, and they will probably win games for us again.”
Dylon Wallace, meanwhile, doesn’t have to worry about treating this particular series any differently.
After all, the Cullman senior has placed the same importance on each game all season long.
And that’s only served to fuel the Black and Gold’s competitive fire.
“I speak for myself, and I feel like my teammates feel the same way, but we’ve treated every game like we hate losing,” Wallace said. “We treat every game like it’s a state championship. We want to win. So, if we treat it the same way and do our thing, I feel pretty confident.”
Chelsea has plenty of confidence as well — for good reason.
Connor Ball and Brock Hill comprise a fantastic one-two punch on the mound, while the offense is spearheaded by Auburn commit Carter Frederick and Bennett Horton.
Ball allowed two hits and struck out eight hitters (6 2/3 innings) in Game 1 of his squad’s semifinal series against Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa last week.
Frederick and Horton have combined for 14 hits and 20 RBIs in their team’s past five games.
“If you make it to the state championship, you’re pretty dang good,” Wallace said of the Hornets. “We’re not taking them lightly at all. We’re preparing for them as much as we can.”
For Patterson, Chelsea reminds him a lot of Helena, which defeated Cullman back in 2017.
“They are playing really well right now and doing the little things it takes to win,” he said. “But what stands out to me is how hard they compete. We know if we don’t go down there and really perform well, we’re probably not going to win it. It’s going to be closely contested. Neither squad is going to give runs away. The key is going to be hits with runners in scoring position. Whoever does that the best is going to win the series.”
Winning the series would certainly be a great way to close out a career for Wallace.
“It’d mean the world to us,” he said. “That’s been our goal all season. It’s finally here. We just can’t wait get on the field, and we’re itching for two more wins.”
Added Blake Lambert: “This season means so much to us. It’s not only our senior season, but it’s our late teammate’s (Curtis Wilson) as well. Everybody is wanting to go have fun. These past few games, that’s what coach has told us — have as much fun as possible and play loose.
“It’s worked. If you’re not having fun doing it, there’s no point.”