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‘Wake-Up Call’: Bears trying to finish strong after short skid


WOODLAWN — A 2-1 loss to Junction City on Thursday was the second straight defeat for the Woodlawn baseball team.

The first of the two losses was a 4-3 defeat against Parkers Chapel that came after a 17-1 start to the season for the Bears and ended their 13-game winning streak, which started after a 2-1 loss to White Hall.

Despite both being one-run losses at home to 8-2A Conference opponents, the Parkers Chapel loss didn’t disappoint Woodlawn head coach Tommy Richardson nearly as much as the loss to Junction City.

“With Parkers Chapel, we know each other so well,” Richardson said. “I thought we gave them our best shot. If we play them 10 times, it would likely come out pretty even.

“Against Junction City, I was disappointed. Our guys showed up with a lack of intensity. … I told them after that game, ‘We can’t afford any more losses.’”

The team got the message and showed it in a 12-0 run-rule victory over Rison on Friday.

The Woodlawn offense bounced back in a big way, but Taylor Stitt stole the show on the mound. The junior tossed a five-inning no-hitter while facing the minimum.

“He’s been doing a great job on the mound for us,” Richardson said. “He’s been hitting the ball well, too, for us.

“I don’t think he’s peaked yet, though. I don’t think anyone on our team has, at least I hope they haven’t. Hopefully that will happen right around the 1st of May.”

While he doesn’t think they’ve hit their stride, Richardson does think the Bears (18-3, 1-2 in 8-2A) have played really well this season.

“Our pitching and our defense have been wonderful,” he said. “Our pitching has kept us in every game. … We’ve done a really good job on our approach at the plate, too.

“I think those would be the three things we’ve really done well.”

The top of the order for the Bears has been extremely impressive. Senior Jacob Richardson and junior J.P. Aiken anchor the lineup and might just be the best 3 and 4 hitters in the area.

“That’s helped tremendously,” coach Richardson said of Aiken hitting fourth. “With Colton (Williams) in front and J.P. behind teams are forced to pitch to (Jacob).”

Even with a dangerous top of the order, Richardson believes his team’s success hinges on the bottom of the lineup.

“I think we’re just like any other team in America,” he said. “If our bottom half produces, we’re really hard to beat.

“When they’re not, we’re beatable.”

Due to some rainouts, Woodlawn is heading into a week full of games. The Bears will play six games in six days (no game Wednesday and two on Saturday) starting with a game at 4:30 Monday at Norphlet.

Richardson thinks his team has gotten over what he called a “hiccup” against Junction City and is ready to take on the challenging week.

“You got to take care of your body,” Richardson said about playing six games in a week. “You got to be ready to play every day.

“Sometimes it’s actually easier to get ready to play every day. … It’s easier to get a routine if you’re playing every day.”

After the loss to Junction City, Richardson doesn’t think his team will have any trouble getting ready.

“I think it was a wake-up call for us,” he said. “That was the first game the intensity wasn’t there.

“I told them after the game, ‘I get the field ready and try to get you ready, but you have to be ready to play.’ I think they will be from now on.”