Johns Creek baseball coach Billy Nicholson knows a bit about the teams in tomorrow’s Class AAAAAA championship series. The Gladiators faced Lambert twice in Region 6-AAAAAA play during the regular season and lost to the Milton in the semifinals of the state tournament.
Nicholson shared his insight with Forsyth County News sports editor Brian Paglia into what got both teams to this point and what could make the difference in who wins.
"Their lineup is the best I’ve seen in many years of high school baseball. They can flat out swing it one through nine. They do a good job of putting the ball in play even with two strikes. Most high school teams when you’ve got two strikes and you’ve got good pitchers like we had this season, you usually feel pretty good when you get two strikes on hitters. They’re dangerous with two strikes.
"[Longhorns sophomore Seth Beer] has above average balance. I coach with the Braves as an assistant hitting coach in the summer. I was telling our hitting coordinator, ‘Guys, I’ve seen a lot of high school hitters, but this kid is so far advanced with his balance.’ He stays back on off-speed pitches and is able to recognize them. Probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in high school. He’s just a complete hitter. Hits for power, hits for average. He’ll work a walk. Just top-notch. In my opinion he’s the player of the year in all classifications."
"Milton’s [pitching] staff is strong obviously. We only scored one run against them and had several opportunities but just couldn’t put together the big hit. Those guys know how to pitch.
"I think the [Alex] Schnell kid, he’s their No. 1. He kind of assumed the No. 1 role when [Vanderbilt commit Dylan] Cease went down. He does a great job. He’s got three pitches that he can throw for strikes. He’ll throw them at any time in the count. … He threw [Johns Creek catcher] Cody Hardage a 3-0 breaking ball and then came back with two nasty curveballs and struck him out, and we had runners on second and third. That seems to be the difference. When pitchers can do that, throw their secondary pitches for strikes, that’s seems to be the difference that keeps their teams in contention to win games."
On the series
"Both teams are going to be very well-coached. Jamie and Joey both do a great job. They’re going to have their kids prepared. I think what it’s going to come down to is the offensive side of the ball. Both [pitching] staffs have excellent pitchers. I think it’s the offensive side of the ball that’s going to determine the outcome of the [series]. Lambert can swing it one through nine. Those guys are really good. Really talented bunch Jamie’s put together there."