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By JOEL COLEMAN
When East Webster begins the 2011 high school baseball playoffs today in Cumberland, Wolverines head coach Wes Johnson simply hopes his team can keep on keeping on.
Riding high after recent wins over playoff qualifiers Bruce and Hamilton, Johnson knows his club is in good shape as they open up their best-of-three series at 4:30 p.m. against Hollandale-Simmons.
"We've been hot lately," said Johnson. "At this point in the season, we really haven't changed anything as to what we've been doing."
East Webster's consistency will be put to the test against an athletic Hollandale-Simmons group that finished as the runner-up in Class 2A, Region 4 behind division champ Eupora.
"They have one really good right-handed pitcher that can throw in the mid-80s," said Johnson of his opposition. "Their leadoff hitter is a left-handed batter that's supposed to be really fast. The scouting report says that the two guys at the top of the lineup are going to get on base, so we've got to try and not let them hurt us."
Trying to keep Hollandale-Simmons down tonight will be starting pitcher Ty Hendrix. In the second game of the series, to be played at noon Saturday in Hollandale, Johnson expects to turn to Codie Silver on the mound. If the series is forced to a third game on Saturday, Johnson says he is evaluating his roster to determine who would fill that role.
"Hopefully, if we do well, we can just get it done in two games," said Johnson.
Like most area teams, East Webster, who enters the playoffs as the third-place team from Class 2A, Region 2 behind division champ Hamilton and runner-up Bruce, has had to battle the weather in recent days to prepare for this weekend's action.
Only time will tell if the wet conditions have dampened the Wolverines offense, but coming into tonight, Johnson feels East Webster should be fine.
"We're swinging the bats pretty well right now," said Johnson. "Hayden Hendrix is really hot and been swinging the bat well. Nich Morrow's been swinging it good too. Jamie McKee, our leadoff guy, has been as steady as we've had all year."
Though the rains have cut into practice time somewhat, Johnson chooses to believe the extra rest will only do his team good.
"That's the way you've got to look at it," said Johnson. "I try to look at it as the glass is half full. We've stayed in as much of a pattern as you could. We've hit everyday and hopefully (today) we'll go out there and pick right back up where we left off."