Davis' tenure with Salem ends with run to semifinals

CONYERS - The 2008 season was a historic year for the Salem baseball team.

The Seminoles set the school record for wins and advanced further in the state playoffs than any other Salem team.

But what made the season even more special was how improbable the run was.

The Seminoles finished third in Region 8-AAAA and were forced to start the state playoffs on the road against Lakeside-DeKalb, the No. 2 seed from the always-competitive Region 6-AAAA.

Not only did the Seminoles sweep the Vikings on their own field, but Salem then proceeded to win the next two road series against East Paulding and Lee County in dramatic fashion. Both series went three games, but it was Salem that proved it had the gusto and advanced to the Final Four for the first time in school history.

Strangely enough, the improbable run ended at the hands of region rival and eventual state champion Loganville.

Salem coach Chris Davis said he couldn't have asked for a better group of kids to coach.

"They had fun, and I don't think they ever quit," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing. ... I don't really know what else to say, that's just the way they were."

Davis said his team was able to overcome all odds because of how they kept an even keel.

"I think the biggest thing is that they didn't panic if things went bad," he said. "They understood the team concept of making each at-bat count and not letting an error or a bad pitch lead to a big inning. I think they didn't get down on themselves. They kept everything in perspective."

Davis said a few games stood out above others, but as a whole, there were just too many highlights to count.

"Of course, the East Paulding comeback was big. I also think the comeback against Lakeside-DeKalb was big," Davis said. "It's actually really hard to pinpoint the highlights because there were just so many."

Davis said two games in particular let him know what this team was capable of doing.

"I think that when we beat Loganville early in the year, it let the players know that we can play with anybody," he said. "In that game, Loganville made a comeback and we had to hold on to win that game. That showed that we can win under pressure.

"Our fifth region game of the season, we played Madison and they beat us. That showed that we can be beat. It let us know that we have to come out and play sound, fundamental baseball. I think the Loganville game showed that we can beat anybody and we can handle the pressure, while the Madison game showed us that if we don't come out and play, we can be beat by anybody."

Davis said the secret to Salem's success was playing as a team.

"All of our wins were team wins," he said. "We never had one guy that we used all year to be our shut-down guy on the mound, and offensively, it wasn't the same guy every night that got the hits for us. Every win was different. I think that's when I started to realize that we had a pretty good team. We weren't a one- or two-person machine."

This was Davis' last season as head coach of the Seminoles as he will being teaching at Ola High School next year.

"I played at Salem for four years and I've coached at Salem for a total of 10 years. The school has only been open for 17 years, but for 14 years I've been a part of the baseball program," he said. "One thing I've always done is give everything I have to Salem baseball. It's special to be part of it, but it's tough to leave."

Davis said the greatest thing he will take away from coaching at Salem is knowing that he his players gave their all every pitch of every game.

"The kids made the season. That's why I loved this season so much," he said. "I love those kids. They went out every game and fought hard. They just played baseball the way it's supposed to be played. They had fun and busted their tail every time. That's what made it enjoyable for me."

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.