WOODSTOCK -- Greg Robinson kept Etowah’s well-earned reputation for upsetting higher seeds in the playoffs alive this season.
The Eagles graduated 13 seniors from the 2018 season, and while it took some time to get up to speed, Robinson once again had his team peaking at the right time, as Etowah won at least two road playoff series and reached the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals for the third straight season.
“Now, these guys understand what’s expected of them,” said Robinson, the 2019 Cherokee Tribune Baseball Coach of the Year. “They don’t want to be the ones who drop the baton and break the streak. We have high expectations. They’ve seen how its done from the older kids, and they did a great job stepping into that.”
Though Etowah has not yet seen many ill effects of traveling all over the state for playoff series, Robinson said he would like to host one. But even if the Eagles have to continue to travel, they will be prepared for the challenges it brings.
“We’ve been resigned to the fact that we don’t have the caliber of players to win the region or even host a playoff game,” Robinson said. “We’re ready to go on the road. To travel and compete against region champs from other regions, we’re not surprised or intimidated.”
Part of being prepared also comes from Etowah’s non-region schedule.
Robinson said he made this season’s schedule one of the most difficult of his 11 seasons with the program, and as the Eagles started 10-2, he knew they would have a chance to win some series late in the season.
“We learned a lot,” he said. “I really thought a lot of the teams we were beating early were better than us, like Pope, Cartersville, Milton, but we had success. We just picked up some big wins. Momentum is a wonderful thing to have in any sport. Those wins really paid dividends down the road. We never felt like we were out of it.”
Etowah did not stay that hot all season.
A midseason lull left Etowah with the fourth seed from Region 4AAAAAAA, but a two-game sweep of Region 1AAAAAAA champion Lowndes set the stage for another quarterfinal run.
“We basically had great chemistry, great leadership, and, in baseball, some things have to go your way,” Robinson said. “We were healthy toward the end. Baseball is a game of momentum. When the hitting started, it continued. Success perpetuates itself. It’s a lot harder to get something turned around than it is to keep it going.”
After losing such a large group of seniors, Robinson had his concerns coming into the 2019 season. He said the young players were more ready to step into important roles than he expected, though, after preparing for them long before the season started.
“They know coming into the fall where the holes are and where they’ll have a chance to play,” Robinson said. “We talk to them all the time about where they stand. They know the depth chart coming into the fall, so they’re ready to compete when we need them.”
For Robinson, the goal is to keep the success going at least one more year.
Etowah will only need to replace seven seniors this time around, and Robinson hopes the experience coming back can lead to a little more success in the region.
“We want to compete for the region,” Robinson said. “We’ve had to go through Walton and Woodstock, but we’re only winning one game in those series. We have to find a way to win those series. We won’t change a lot around here. We just have to show up and find a way to win those important games.”