WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- Tuesday was a night of celebration for Airport High’s Diamond Eagles, after the baseball team clinched the AAAA region title.
But Wednesday, it was back to work to get ready for next week’s district tournament, following Airport’s 13-0 win over South Aiken on the road. Justin Allen got the win on the mound, pitching a shut-out.
Getting back into the playoffs has been a focus all season for the team, said Coach Tim Perry, who now has four region championships.
Airport will play on Tuesday, April 24, hosting either Westwood or Lancaster at 7 p.m. Winning its District 4 would send Airport to the Upper State round. And wins there would mean a trip to the State Championship, best 2 out of 3 series.
“These young men wanted to get back in the weight room the day after we lost to Eastside in the second game of the District Championship last May,” Perry said. “They showed up four days a week all summer and fall, with a tireless and relentless determination.”
The team’s current record is 19-3, finishing the region at 6-2.
Perry said the team’s success on the field is due to a number of factors, including players’ commitment, coachability and competitiveness. And that success has carried into the classroom, with a Team GPA of 3.69.
“They are so driven,” Perry said. “They are 100 percent bought in to everything we do and everything we teach.”
The coach also noted how every player has pitched in, no matter the need.
“They are so resilient,” the coach said. “We've had some injuries, and each time the next person in line steps up and is ready for their number to be called.”
Perry said if the team is going to advance through the tournament bracket, players will need fewer bases on balls -- and fewer free bases in general.
“You have to make teams earn everything they get in playoff baseball,” Perry said. “We also have to improve our base running. We've gotten away with some costly base running errors thus far, and we must clean those up to capitalize on every offensive opportunity.”
Perry feels good about the Diamond Eagles’ chances heading into next week’s tournament -- and he especially feels good about the players he’s bringing there.
“They are such a selfless group of young men,” the coach said. “Everyone likes to throw that buzz word around, but these guys genuinely love each other and put each other in front of themselves.
“They are great people," Perry said, "and an absolute blast to coach.”