Carbon Hill’s baseball team was finally moving to its new location.
After decades at the old baseball field, located across town, the Bulldogs were finally going to be able to play on a brand new field at the school.
Or so they thought.
Heading into the second round of the state baseball playoffs, Carbon Hill is still waiting for that first home game. The Bulldogs have played all 26 games this season on the road.
Today’s second-round series against Winfield is no different. The teams meet for a double-header beginning at 4:30 p.m. today at Winfield High School.
Carbon Hill’s field has been under construction since January. While most of the field is complete, the dugouts and backstop still require work. Next year’s team will be the first to christen the new facility.
That’s of little comfort to this year’s senior class.
“I think having a home field would have helped us out — to have a field we are used to playing on every day and having a home crowd,” senior Tylor Owens said. “It’s getting like a routine thing now, getting on the bus and going somewhere to play. It would be great to be able to walk out on a home field and know its ours.”
Carbon Hill baseball coach Royce Young worked on the school’s old field until November, when it became apparent the school was going to try to get the new field prepared for the 2012 season.
“The winter rains came and it really became evident in early January that we weren’t going to have it ready. Before the season even got here we knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Young said.
“It was a huge disappointment. Everybody held out hope that we would still get to play a few games toward the end of season, especially the seniors. It would have been nice for them to say they were part of the first team that played on the new field. Not having a home field is tough. More than anything, it’s the comfort of not having to load a bus and travel 45 minutes or an hour and have to unload everything. It wears on you physically.”
Carbon Hill has four senior starters on this year’s squad: Owens, Blaine Eads, Jordan Dawsey and Dylan Sargent.
“We kept hearing that we were going to play at home. About a week before area (play), coach told us we weren’t going to be able to play on it,” said Eads. “It’s bad because of the umpires. We go to different counties and the umpires are always for the home team and we never get the benefit of the doubt on anything.”
Despite the setback, Carbon Hill didn’t let the road trips hold them back.
“The kids didn’t dwell on not playing at home. They just show up every day and do what they need to do. I think, in a sense, the challenge helped keep them motivated,” Young added.
Carbon Hill did play "home games" though none were held in the city. The Bulldogs played a pair of area games at Oakman and also got in three innings of an area game vs. Winfield at Curry High School before the rains came.
The game resumed two days later at Winfield.
The Bulldogs (14-12) finished second to Winfield (25-19) in area play and had to head to No. 4 Vinemont in the opening round of the playoffs. The road warriors were right at home, sweeping the Eagles out of the playoffs with 3-0 and 3-2 victories behind complete game efforts from Owens and Eads on the mound.
Now the Bulldogs get a date with Winfield, who won two out of three games against Carbon Hill during the regular season.
Hitting the road for the series is nothing new.
“We go in with nothing to lose. We have surprised everybody this year. We’ve even surprised me,” Eads said. “I don’t think half of these kids even liked each other at the beginning of the year, but we just came together. We’ve been playing pretty good here lately.”
Like in the opening round, Carbon Hill will be the underdog in today’s second-round series.
“Everybody was doubting us when we were going to play (Vinemont). Everybody was talking about the pitcher they have that threw 92. I was like, ‘Just watch. We aren’t done yet,’” Owens said.
Winfield knocked Carbon Hill out of the second round of the playoffs two years ago.
“We’re out for revenge. They got us in my sophomore year. We want to get them back,” he said.