Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX


May 28, 2014

Grandview faces Sunnyvale with trip to state on the line

GRANDVIEW — The Grandview Zebras have reached the Elite 8 of the 2014 Class 2A UIL state baseball playoffs. And there’s only one thing standing between the Zebras and a trip to the state tournament — the Sunnyvale Raiders in the Region II finals.

Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday from QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie.

Grandview (29-9) swept Palmer in the regional semifinals while Sunnyvale (26-6) knocked off Hughes Springs in a one-game series to reach this point.

With so much at stake, Grandview Coach Ryan Ebner said the Zebras are approaching this series like they have all season — one game, one day, one practice at a time.

“We’ll take things as normal as possible,” Ebner said. “We’re just going to continue to do the same things we’ve been doing. We want to make the game simple and not do anything different — just keep rolling on like we have been.

“We all know what round we’re in. It’s seven more innings of baseball. And after that game, we’ll go to the next game. We’ll just keep things as normal as possible. On Thursday, we’ll play seven solid innings. And then we’ll play again Saturday and worry about what happens next after that. I’m real big on just taking care of today. We’re just worried about getting practice in and focus on it one day at a time.”

As expected at this stage of the playoffs, both teams enter the regional finals on a roll. Grandview enters this series winners of 11 of its past 13 games overall with an 8-1 record in the postseason. Sunnyvale enters the matchup winners of 11 of its last 12 games overall with a 7-1 record in the playoffs.

“We’ve even had some similar close series,” Ebner said. “They’ve been tested as well and been able to fight through it like we were. I think it’ll be similar to what we’ve been seeing. We’re both pretty good teams. We’re going to battle each other. There’s going to be big moments in every series — it’ll come down to whoever handles it best. We’ve both been able to handle those big moments so far because we’re to this point. It will be about execution at this stage.

“I look forward to it. It’ll be fun. I told the kids not to over think it, just be ready to battle. Whatever happens, happens — just adjust and go. They’ll be ready for us and we’ll be ready for them. It’ll be a dog fight the whole time.”

Last postseason, the Zebras defeated the Raiders, 2-1, in a one-game series in the regional quarterfinals.

“I would imagine [Sunnyvale] remembers what happened last year,” Ebner said. “When you get knocked out, you always remember who did it. I’m sure that’s in the back of their minds — or the front of their minds — I don’t know.”

After beating Sunnyvale last postseason, Grandview lost in the next round to Hughes Springs — who Sunnyvale beat last week.

“My thought process is, you’re going to have to play the game either way,” Ebner said about the Hughes Springs-Sunnyvale outcome. “As far as me finding out who won that series, both of them are good teams. Flip a coin and either one, you’re going to have to play a good team next week either way. At the end of the day, it was going to be hard fought against either team.”

Sunnyvale features a deep lineup and a solid pitching rotation, but three of the Raiders’ biggest threats include seniors Ryan Cottingame, Wesley Phillips and Jake Wilcox.

“The Wilcox kid has been a fantastic pitcher his whole career,” Ebner said. “He’s going to play at UT-Arlington. He’s who we faced last year and he was outstanding. Their lead-off guy, Phillips, is at catcher this year. He does a great job there and he’s their best hitter. He’s got a little pop to him. He’s hit a couple of big home runs in big moments this year. Cottingame has been at least a three-year letterman and has been through a lot of playoff games. He’s also their quarterback.

“This isn’t their first rodeo by any means. Their lineup is solid all the way through it. But those three definitely stand out. All in all, they’re a solid team. Coach [Tim] Arden does a good job with them. They do the fundamentals very well.”

Wilcox, who was all-state honorable mention last year, is 8-3 with 136 strikeouts compared to 43 walks and 46 hits in 72 innings pitched for a 1.46 ERA. At the plate, Wilcox boasts a .340 average with 20 RBIs.

Phillips leads the Raiders with a .448 batting average, .843 slugging percentage and five home runs to go with 29 RBIs. On the mound, Phillips is Sunnyvale’s No. 3 starter and is 5-1 with a 1.04 ERA in 40.1 innings pitched.

Cottingame, who mans first base, leads the team with 30 RBIs on a .292 batting average.

Sunnyvale’s No. 2 pitcher behind Wilcox is sophomore Nathan Hawkins. He is 8-2 with 87 strikeouts compared to 22 walks and 11 earned runs allowed for a 1.15 ERA in 67 innings pitched.

Game 2 is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Richards Park in Waxahachie. If a game 3 is needed, it will follow game 2.

The other regional final matchups in 2A playoffs are Bishop vs. East Bernard, Holliday vs. Wall and Salado vs. Troy

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