05/11/07 — Eages, Chargers ready for playoffs

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Eages, Chargers ready for playoffs

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 11, 2007 1:49 PM

Wayne Christian baseball coach Tim Brannan keeps setting the bar higher each season for his program.

And each time, the Eagles respond.

Despite graduating six seniors off last year's Class 1-A Carolina Christian Conference championship team, Brannan refused to let his 2007 squad rest on its laurels. Once again, the Eagles set winning the CCC regular-season and tournament crowns as their goals -- and they achieved them.

Now, it's on to the next step -- a final four appearance in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association playoffs. Wayne Christian (14-4 overall) begins that quest at home Saturday afternoon against United Faith Christian. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, preseason NCISAA favorite Wayne Country Day drew an opening-round bye in the 12-team field. The second-seeded Chargers (19-4) play host to either Shannon Forest (S.C.) or conference rival Faith Christian-Rocky Mount next Tuesday afternoon. Game time is 4 p.m.

"I'm pleased and happy to get a number two seed," said WCDS head coach Michael Taylor. "That's a good feeling after the way we've played this year. But I am disappointed in seeing a possible top-five matchup in the second round.

"I told the players you just have to deal with it and play baseball; not worry about the situation at hand."

Taylor questioned the seeding system which placed two fellow conference rivals -- Kerr-Vance and Greenfield -- among the top four teams. Each team has a losing record and Shannon Forest, ranked No. 3 statewide, was designated a No. 5 seed.

Lawrence Academy, the state runner-up each of the past two seasons, is seeded No. 1. Four-time defending state champion Waccamaw drew a No. 6 seed.

"Shannon Forest is going to be fired up and they probably feel like they have something to prove," said Taylor.

WCDS dealt Shannon Forest a 9-3 loss nearly two months ago at historic Fleming Stadium, site of this year's final four. The predominantly-young team is led by 5-foot-11 senior David Douglas, a right-handed pitcher who has signed with Anderson (S.C.) University.

Scouts have clocked Douglas' fastball in the mid to upper 80s and low 90s. He's fashioned a 6-2 record and 2.18 ERA in eight starts this season.

Davis is hitting .571 with three home runs and 22 RBI.

"We played pretty decent against them the first time," said Taylor. "I feel pretty confident in what we have as a team; deeper and more balanced than they are.

"(The outcome) might depend on what kind of game Douglas has against us."

The Chargers are led by Coastal Plains Independent Conference player of the year Travis Davis. The senior right-hander is 9-1 on the mound with a sterling 0.91 ERA in 61-plus innings. Taylor plans to start Davis and use the bullpen.

Ryan Ford, an all-CPIC selection, is batting .584 with 28 RBI and two home runs. He's also recorded 11 stolen bases. Trent Langston and Sam Steed, a pair of all-CPIC picks, are hitting .427 and .342, respectively.

Overall, WCDS fashioned a .383 batting average during regular-season play and has outscored the opposition 221-122.

"We put the ball in play and make something happen," said Taylor.

Wayne Christian has hit the ball well this season and is coming off an 8-0 win against Northwood Temple in the CCC tournament final. The Eagles are led by Adam Brannan (.438 average), Doug Johnson (.426) and Kyle Harrell (.408).

Brannan is 9-2 on the mound with a 1.55 ERA. The junior right-hander has notched 91 strikeouts and yielded 36 hits in 62 innings of work. He's supported by senior right-hander Doug Johnson (5-2), Jeremy Jefferson and Michael Johnson.

Coach Brannan said he expects to "pitch by committee" against United Faith.

"I really wish the game was today and I wouldn't have to worry too much about pitching," he said. "But with the possibility of having so many close games together next week, if we reach the final four, that's what I need to do."

The Eagles are making their fourth consecutive postseason appearance with an all-time record of 2-3.

"I know very little about United Faith," said Brannan. "Not many people this way have played them. I told my guys we have to out and play good baseball, no matter what."