Region 7AAAA runner-up Creekview will travel to the Region 6AAAA champion Marist today for a second-round doubleheader, continuing with a third game Thursday, if necessary.
Creekview (17-12) may have a daunting task at hand, going up against a program with 11 state titles. Marist (25-3), which swept Madison County in the first round, is loaded with an experienced roster that includes 15 seniors.
The War Eagles have a trio seniors who can hit for power - Brett Dolan, Chesney Young and Daniel Spingola - and Creekview will likely face senior starting pitchers in Brandon Leibrandt and Blake Stevens in the first two games.
Leibrandt has signed to pitch at Florida. He's the son of former Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Leibrandt, now a Marist assistant coach.
"It's going to be tough to punch holes in that resume," Creekview coach Mike Nayman said. "(Marist head coach Mike) Strickland has it going on down there. We know the task that we are up against and we're not shying away from it. We're excited to give it our best, and we'll see how it falls."
Nayman compared Marist to his own team, noting a few mirror images. He said both teams are aggressive in running the basepaths and use mostly singles and doubles to get on base.
Nayman also said Creekview must score runs against Marist's starting pitchers, with A.J. Johnson and Will Garner applying most of the power in the middle of the Grizzlies' lineup. If Creekview can spread its scoring instead of saving most of its runs for one inning, Nayman said they'll be in better shape.
"The key for us is to apply some offensive pressure," Nayman said. "We can't score them all in one inning. We have to give ourselves opportunities for several scoring chances. Putting all the eggs in one inning could be a problem. We have to work the counts and put anywhere between 12 and 15 baserunners in a game."
Creekview's strengths this season has been its starting pitching - led by Reagan O'Briant and Ryan Zentko - and the ability to give them run support.
They will attempt to use that to their advantage in the series against Marist, just like the Grizzlies did in a 5-2 series-deciding victory over Alexander on Saturday.
Creekview scored four runs in the first inning, highlighted by an RBI triple by Steven Whitaker, RBI double by Calvin Riddle and RBI single by O'Briant. That was enough of a lead for Zentko, who threw a complete-game five-hitter and helped his own cause with a solo home run in the sixth.
"If you have good starting pitching, outs are valuable," Nayman said. "If I had my wish, our starting pitching will go out there and keep us in games, allowing us an opportunity to get something going offensively."