West Union baseball prepares for third round

Last season is still on the minds of the West Union baseball team. Falling shy of making the playoffs after their 2009 state championship appearance, the mindset of Ashley Russell’s team changed as they want another chance to make it to Jackson.
“That was a big deal going into this year,” Russell said. “We’ve had success for three years in a row, but last year, especially in my older guys, I saw the new commitment to get better and the attitudes have been much better than they were last year.”
The Eagles have swept their first two playoff opponents to reach this weekend’s third round, where they will face Greenville St. Joe (14-7, 8-0).
“It’s going to be one game at a time. They’re good and we have to play well and be focused, not look past them toward anything else,” Russell said. “It has to be all about Greenville St. Joe.”
For seniors Will Basil and Hunter McQuary, the change in attitude and focus is what they attribute to their playoff success so far.
“I think we were better two years ago, but our attitudes weren’t together, and this year, we’re still good, but our mindset is different.” Basil said. “No one clicked, I just don’t know what it was last year. We had everything, but for us to not go back, it was tough. We practiced hard last summer and fall and we knew if we had another shot to go to the playoffs, we would give everything we’ve got and not take it for granted.”
Last weekend against Biggersville, the Eagles raced to a 1-0 series lead, winning on the road, 15-1. The two teams battled in extra innings on Saturday, led by two-hit performances by Basil and McQuary. Basil also shared time on the mound with Taylor English, and the duo combined for eight strikeouts in West Union’s 11-10 win.
“They played well, and I think we just found a way to win the close games,” Ashley said. “Anytime you win a game like that, it does something for you because you worked hard.”
There is also a sense of pride for the Eagles, as they are the last of the four county schools remaining in the playoffs. On the line is the state championship appearance streak with Union County boasting the last three north half champion teams in Jackson.
“We are the last county school left, but Myrtle, Ingomar and East Union all have great teams and have done a great job,” Ashley said. “We have it on our back now to represent the county, and we want to do our best we can because I feel like our county has the best baseball around, and we want to carry this out.”
“It was fun when we went there [Jackson] the first time, and we kind of got that feeling back with the run we’re making,” McQuary added. “I’m just hoping we can keep it up and make it back.”
Game one will take place in Greenville on Friday and game two at West Union on Saturday at 5 p.m.