COVINGTON - Alcovy's Bryan Daniel is the engine that could push the Tiger's over Class AAAA No. 7 ranked Wayne County as the two clash in the second round of baseball playoffs in Jesup at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
"I wouldn't say he's the heart and soul of the team, but I would definitely say he's the engine of the team," said Alcovy coach Casey Bates. "He's the catcher looking out and everyone is looking at him. He's making calls on the field and doing a great job for us."
Daniel stepped up as the team's No. 2 catcher last year allowing Bates to move Taylor Jackson to the infield. A move which helped strengthen Alcovy up the gut.
"Allowing us to put Taylor Jackson in the infield helps us more up the middle. Having Bryan do his job makes us even more solid up the middle. He's that type of kid. He's got the heart and gut to play for his teammates, no matter how he feels," said Bates.
Beside's helping the team defensively, he also produces runs. Daniel is currently tied with freshman Bowen Braswell in home runs with six, followed by Ross Roberts who has five.
"From the scouting report other teams are getting I told (Daniel) he's going to see 90 percent curve balls. He asked why and I told him that other teams know how he hits the fast ball," Bates said.
However, Alcovy is going to need more then Daniel to be at the top of his game if they hope to advance and host the quarterfinals.
But the way the team is playing after knocking Harlem out of the playoffs, Bates said he can feel the confidence, not cockiness, oozing from his players.
"I told them you can't go in there thinking you're going to get beat. You have to go in there thinking that it's just another team. If they can do that we can give ourselves a shot," he said.
"It's all about confidence with these kids. You start losing your confidence is going to go down. If you start winning your confidence is going to go up. What we have to stay away from is being too high or too low, we have to play in the middle the entire game."
In order for Alcovy to pull off the upset, its pitching staff, including Jackson, Roberts, John Pollard and Beau Thomas, will have to keep the ball on the outside of the plate.
"I've talked to three or four coaches about them and they all say the same thing, that they have a really good hitting squad. They're all righties and have a lot of power. We can't walk them and have to make them hit the pitch the other way," said Bates. "If we can do that I think we might be successful. But in high school it's hard to tell a kid to throw the ball right where you want it every time."
The Tigers had a hard time getting hits with runners in scoring position prior to the game against Harlem. But having scored 33 runs in the three-game series seemed to have eliminated that problem.
Facing the same type of pitching they face in batting practice should help the Tigers continue making solid contact with the ball.
Just like the Tigers, Wayne County has one pitcher throwing around 85 miles per hour with three others throwing around 80.
The one thing they all have in common is that they have good control over their curve ball and change up.
"I've been told they have very similar pitching as us," said Bates. "They don't have anyone that's going to come in there and blow to by you. It's the same situation that we're in."
With a late afternoon game, the team is planning on starting their four-hour trip early Wednesday morning. They plan on leaving around 7 a.m. for the 200-mile journey.
"I don't want to get them in a hotel room sitting around all day. I'd rather have them sleep in their bed then have them stay up late in a hotel room," said Bates. "I'm hoping their adrenaline takes over after that long drive. I've never seen these kids so upbeat."
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.