It’s a cold rainy afternoon at Marbury Middle School, but inside the gym, it’s anything but dark and gloomy as the Marbury High baseball team takes batting practice.
Camaraderie fills the building from the veteran team that’s played together for a long time and been successful in two different state classifications.
“A lot of these guys have been starting since ninth grade and they play really well together,” said Marbury head coach Lyman Woodfin. “The team is real close on and off the field, and obviously I think that helps us with our success on the field. They play hard together, and they do a good job as teammates.”
The chemistry of this veteran group has been one of the main ingredients for this team’s success.
“Our team chemistry is really good, this is probably the closest team I’ve ever been on,” said senior outfielder Colton Thomas. “I really think that contributed a lot to our success.”
Two seasons ago, this was considered a young team, but that young team made it all the way to the Class 3A quarterfinals. When the season ended, the Bulldogs found out they would be moving to Class 5A.
A challenge for the Bulldogs, but a challenge they felt they could handle.
“I think in sports you can either rise to the challenge, or you can use that as an excuse, and everybody on this team said on Day 1 this isn’t going to be an excuse it’s going to be an opportunity.”
After a slow start to the 2013 season, the Bulldogs were determined to get back to where they were in 2012.
“The season started off a little slow,” said senior first and third baseman Michael Peterson. “There were so many expectations from parents and a lot of the players, we felt like we had to play up to these peoples expectations. But after about a quarter of the way through the season we started playing together as a team, and we began to progress from there.”
The team then returned to the quarterfinals of the playoffs for the second straight year, not an easy task, especially after moving up two classifications before being defeated by Russell County.
“I think the biggest thing is we didn’t make excuses,” Thomas said. “The jump was pretty big, but it didn’t matter. We just needed to keep working hard, play our game and try to dominate every opponent we played.”
Now the team is more determined than ever to get past the quarterfinals and make it to their ultimate goal of winning a state championship.
“This is the first year we actually aren’t a young team, and the expectations are so high this year,” said senior shortstop and pitcher Ben Barrett. “Our whole pitching staff from last year is back and so is the middle part of our lineup. We’ve just got a lot of seniors that really care about the game. This is the first year we haven’t had freshmen, and everybody on this team was there last year and knew what it felt like when we lost in quarterfinals.”
Woodfin has seen a lot of maturity from this team over the years.
“Three or four years ago, you would have heard guys talking on the bench about being 3-for-3,” Woodfin said. “The other night, somebody struck out, and there wasn’t any pouting. He came in, and he’s telling the team he threw me an off-speed pitch away. We’ve gone from a ‘me’ team to a ‘we’ team.”
After Marbury’s 1-0 win over Prattville on Wednesday, the Bulldogs have compiled an 15-7 record, but are still counting heavily on experience and team chemistry to get things back on track and keep their playoff goals a reality.
“The team chemistry overall is what helps more than anything,” Woodfin said. “We’re very fortunate that we don’t have kids with problems. They are all well raised, and they all do the right thing.”