Salem vs. Lee County: Road just like home for Seminoles

CONYERS - The Salem baseball team is finding hostile environments to its liking this postseason.

The Seminoles (26-5) will face another hostile environment today in the Class AAAA quarterfinals when they travel to square off with Lee County (21-8) in Leesburg. The best-of-three series starts at 5 p.m. today with a doubleheader. If necessary, Game 3 is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday.

"Playing on the road allows us to focus on nothing but baseball. I don't mind that the other team has to do all of the work in getting everything ready for the game," Salem coach Chris Davis said. "We get to be the underdogs on the road because we were the No. 3 seed (in our region), and I like that. Once the game starts, it's two teams playing on the same field, so we don't see it as a disadvantage being on the road.

"Our fans have been so supportive and so loud at these places that I don't believe that any team so far has gained any advantage over us in that aspect, either."

But a trip to Lee County is a different experience, and Davis got a sneak preview last year. The Salem coach watched county rival Heritage beat Lee County in the Class AAAA semifinals on Memorial Day last May in what could be best described as a carnival-like atmosphere.

However, Davis is more concerned about the Trojans than their rowdy fans.

"Lee County will be as sound and as fundamental of a team as we have seen all year," Davis said. "They are well-coached and they have been to the quarterfinals three of the last four seasons. They have good pitching, hit well and play sound defense. Plus, they will have the rowdiest fans our team has ever seen."

The Trojans beat Starr's Mill 10-9 and 5-1 to win their second-round series.

The Seminoles have won four of their five postseason games, including a pair of one-run victories in Game 1 and Game 3 against No. 1 East Paulding in the second round.

Salem will look to follow the same blueprint today that it used in victories over Lakeside-DeKalb and East Paulding.

"We have to got to play with the same intensity that has gotten us this far. We need to execute better than we have in certain situations, but basically play our game," Davis said. "Every team at this point is here because it does or has done something right. Our pitchers have worked their tails off, and they will need to continue pitching great. We have to do the little things well - run the bases, hit and field."

Game 1 could be key for the Seminoles. In each series so far, senior pitcher Jake Dyer has gotten the victory, including a 5-4 win over East Paulding in the second round.

"Game 1 is definitely important. You have a tomorrow by winning Game 1, but it still doesn't allow you to relax in Game 2," Davis said. "In Game 2, one team is going to be playing for its season, and anytime you put a good team's back to the wall, it's going to fight that much more. Winning is important in either game because you can carry so much momentum into the next game. We have won both Game 1s, and make no mistake about it, we are going to go to Lee County with the same plan."

The Seminoles are one of the hottest Class AAAA teams in the state, winning 14 of their last 16 games. T.J. Cash's clutch three-run homer was the difference in Game 3 against East Paulding, the exclamation point on the Seminoles' rally for an 8-7 victory from a 7-2 deficit.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: Salem at Lee County

Who: Salem Seminoles (26-7) vs. Lee County Trojans (21-8)

What: Class AAAA baseball quarterfinals

When: 5 p.m. today, doubleheader

Where: Lee County High School