After winning the 23rd district championship, Coach Brian Wise of North Bullitt says his team saw their victory as business as usual. The district tourney prepared the Eagles as they battle through the sixth regional tournament once more, hoping to go to state for a third consecutive season.
â€œIt is part of our goal,â€ Wise said in response to their district championship win over Southern. But he makes clear that the regional tournament has been their focus.
â€œWe talked a lot all season long about this week, and we know there are five or six teams in our region who are capable of making a run at this and winning it. It is a tough region, and you literally just have to play one game at a time. There is no tomorrow if you donâ€™t win today. So our focus has been on the region this entire time, and we hope we can put together a run.â€
The Eagles, who have been on a hot streakÂ of 12 straight wins, are riding their momentum in the postseason. They defeated a relentless Fairdale (22-8) team on Memorial Day in their first match-up of the regional tournament.
It appears as though the more crucial it is to get a win, the better North Bullitt has played. And every game now is crucial: Itâ€™s win or go home.
â€œThe closer we got to the end of the season, the more excited they got about the postseason, and I think it has just carried over,â€ Wise adds. â€œWhen things get going good, it seems to snowball in that direction, and thatâ€™s what has happened. We are getting a lot of production from a lot of people with a good focus.â€
North Bullittâ€™s focus has peaked to its highest level due in large part to the senior leadership and experience on the team. They start six of seven seniors, and most of them have been through this journey before. The last two seasons, North Bullitt has won the sixth region and gone on to the state tournament. Last year, they went as far as the semi-final round of the state tournament and came up short to Highlands.
The Eagles experienced a sweet euphoria getting to state in back-to-back seasons, and both players and coaches enjoyed the ride. Coach Wise maintains, â€œIâ€™ll be honest, it is the best experience any of us coaches had the chance to go through in any of our high school coaching careers, so obviously, that is our goal. We want to get back.â€
But the team isnâ€™t settling for past accomplishments. They are a team who has a big appetite for victory, and their humility as a bunch makes them that much hungrier.
Some would consider the Eagles to be the presumed sixth region champion by measuring their dominance the past couple seasons, but Wise says players are taking one day and one game at a time, knowing on any given pitch, that pitch could be the pitch that decides the outcome of a game.
Wise, who has coached basketball and football on this level, says in those sports, the teams with the best athletes typically win 90 percent of the time. But in baseball, that isnâ€™t the case. He offers, â€œSometimes the ball will just bounce funny.â€
So there is a sense of urgency now to play at the highest level and to be error-free. Wise is confident in this experienced bunch who have been on this run the past couple years and believes the Eagles are playing their best baseball at the right time of the year.
If North Bullitt captures a third straight regional championship and goes back to the state tournament, Coach Wise compares it to the NCAA Menâ€™s Basketball Final Four.
â€œWhen you get to that point, I equate it to the NCAA Final Four. If you get there, thatâ€™s wonderful, but after that, it takes a little bit of luck. You are playing a lot of good teams. If you get a timely hit, then youâ€™re probably going to win. If you donâ€™t make a key error in a critical moment, then youâ€™re probably going to win. The thing for us will be if we will get timely hits or not. We have done that the past couple years to win a few games in the state tournament. Thatâ€™s how it goes, and it is tough in a four-game situation. We are excited and would love to have that opportunity again, but we know that is a long ways away.â€
The prerequisite to state is getting through a tough sixth region once again. North Bullitt will play Bullitt East in the semi-final round of the sixth region tournament on June 1 at 7:15 p.m. at the University of Louisville. VT
Photos courtesy of The Pioneer News