Almost all of the Evans High School baseball players will admit it. Something just wasn't quite right about the start of the 2006 season.
"At the beginning of the year, it was real bad," senior Shawn Ward said. "I was trying to pull everything. My dad finally got it into my head that I didn't have to do that."
The correction paid off Wednesday night when Ward sent two home runs beyond the outfield fence in a doubleheader sweep over Woodward Academy in the second round of the Class AAAA state tournament.
Ward wasn't the only offensive weapon that gave Evans wins of 6-4 and 9-5 Wednesday night. Senior Cory Rodgers also had plenty to do with the sweep.
Like Ward, Rodgers' season didn't start off perfect.
"I've been trying to fix my swing because I was dragging my back hands. It slowed my bat down a lot," Rodgers said.
After a few midseason tweaks to his swing and some time to adjust, Rodgers' stroke is as effective as ever. The senior lit up Woodward pitching in the doubleheader with a five-for-eight night including four doubles.
The run support made the job easier for Evans pitchers Kyle Golden and Kevin Millward. Golden struck out eight batters for his sixth win of the season in Game 1. Millward went the full seven innings with five strikeouts in Game 2.
Millward said his success also came after making midseason adjustments.
"My curve ball was off, but I was able to work the kinks out," he said. "It helped me a lot tonight. I could set up my pitches better."
All the adjusting has left Evans as one of only eight teams still alive in the Class AAAA state tournament.
It's also given the Knights another home series when they play host to Marist in the state quarterfinals starting Tuesday.
"We've spent a lot of time working on our mechanics to get where we need to be," Evans coach Ricky Beale said. "A lot of the hits tonight were to the opposite field. That's a good sign."
The sweep also meant no second day of baseball for the Knights. A doubleheader split would have put Evans and Woodward back on the diamond Thursday in a win-or-go-home situation.
Instead, the Knights have an extra day to rest and prepare for next week's opponent.
"That's huge. Anytime you don't have to face elimination and you get an extra day of practice, it's a good thing," Beale said. "We'll use that to rest up and get ready for next week."
Photo by Jim Blaylock
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