Flame hope to extend 21-game win streak
Christian’s Charlie Kelley is mobbed by teammates at homeplate after he hit a two-out 3-run homer against Decatur Heritage in 2010.
FLORENCE — Shoals Christian’s players were not thinking about starting a winning streak when they faced Decatur Heritage two years ago in the third game of their best-of-three Class 1A baseball playoff series.
The Flame won the first game of the series 2-1 before losing the second game 6-5. When the third game, scheduled for Saturday, was pushed back to Monday by rain, coach Jason Anderson called a team meeting.
“We had hit 17 or 18 fly balls the day before and I wasn’t happy with our approach at the plate,” Anderson recalled. “Our guys were saying the right things, but it was just lip service. We talked about actually doing the things we practiced instead of just talking about it. The kids responded and we got it rolling.”
Shoals Christian went on to win that decisive game 11-4 to win the second round series. The Flame went on to win the Class 1A state championship and won the title again in 2011.
That 6-5 loss to Decatur Heritage in 2010 proved to be a turning point for the program. It was also the last time the Flame lost a playoff game. Shoals Christian (26-21) brings a 21-game winning streak into Friday’s Class 1A quarterfinal series against Cedar Bluff (25-12).
“We don’t really think about the streak,” said senior catcher Charlie Kelley, who has been behind the plate for all 21 wins. “All we care about is getting 10 wins in the playoffs.”
Anderson said he doesn’t even mention the streak to his players.
“When you look back at it, it’s amazing,” Anderson said. “It’s a credit to these guys and the way they practice every day. We always want to be the best practice team in the state and the kids have really bought into it.”
The Flame won that Game 3 two years ago with Taylor Brackin, who graduated in 2011, pitching a complete game. Since then, the Flame have thrown the same two pitchers for 20 consecutive playoff games with junior Will Bishop pitching the opener and Devan Traglia working the second game.
“It’s amazing that Will and I have started every game,” Traglia said. “I lost that game to Decatur Heritage and my teammates still mess with me about it. We weren’t thinking about a streak in that series — it was just survive and advance.”
How dominant have the Flame been in winning 21 consecutive playoff games?
Shoals Christian has outscored its opponents 252-62 during the streak. The Flame have scored double figures in 15 of the 21 games and are averaging 12.0 runs per game while giving up just 2.95.
There has been just one 1-run game in the streak — a 13-12 victory over Holy Spirit in the first game of the 2010 state championship series.
While there have been many memorable games in the streak, it all comes back to the first win for the players.
“The first one is the one that stands out,” Bishop said. “We had to come from behind in that one, so it really defined the streak. We’ve been on a good roll from there.”
The Flame has not had to use it’s No. 3 starter in the playoffs since the victory over Decatur Heritage two years ago. Anderson, however, said the Flame has good pitching depth.
“We’ve got two very good starters in Aaron Bowman and Christian Shipe,” he said. “We haven’t had to use a third starter in a while, but I would feel good about throwing either of those guys.”
Shoals Christian is now six wins away from a third consecutive state title. The players, however, understand that the competition gets a lot tougher, beginning Friday with Cedar Bluff.
The seniors would love to end their careers with a 27-game playoff winning streak. But Kelley said keeping the winning steak going is not the main goal.
“All I want to do is go out on top,” Kelley said. “If we lose a game that’s fine as long as we win the series. If we go 6-3 in the next three weeks that’s fine with me.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.
21 and counting
Scores from Shoals Christian’s 21-game playoff winning streak:
Shoals Christian 11, Decatur Heritage 4
Shoals Christian 17, South Lamar 1
Shoals Christian 15, South Lamar 2
Shoals Christian 16, Cedar Bluff 7
Shoals Christian 10, Cedar Bluff 3
Shoals Christian 13, Holy Spirit 12
Shoals Christian 7, Holy Spirit 5
Shoals Christian 15, Skyline 0
Shoals Christian 21, Skyline 0
Shoals Christian 11, Athens Bible 6
Shoals Christian 15, Athens Bible 1
Shoals Christian 8, Ragland 2
Shoals Christian 7, Ragland 2
Shoals Christian 11, South Lamar 1
Shoals Christian 11, South Lamar 3
Shoals Christian 5, Fayetteville 3
Shoals Christian 7, Fayetteville 4
Shoals Christian 18, Woodville 0
Shoals Christian 19, Woodville 0
Shoals Christian 10, Athens Bible 5
Shoals Christian 5, Athens Bible 1