It wasn’t mosquitoes. No, not gnats, either.
If you’ve been hearing a buzz in the air, most likely it’s the excitement building for Tuesday's 7 p.m. Region 1-5A baseball semifinal.
Rutherford, 22-4, hosts Mosley, 25-3, to decide which team moves on to next week’s region championship. Anticipation for the fourth meeting of the teams not only is rooted in two regular-season meetings, both won by Mosley, but spiked when Rutherford edged the Dolphins two weeks ago for the district championship.
In one sense, Tuesday’s outcome decides only which team takes the next step and which one ends its season, but it seems magnified in importance because rarely do intracounty rivals meet this late in the state playoffs.
Rutherford coach Jon Hudson and Mosley coach Todd Harless both spoke to that premise.
“We’ve got to win two ballgames to get there” Final Four, Hudson said, “and while our guys are aware there is more excitement this doesn’t end anything. It’s exciting playing Mosley in this round, but we’ve just talked about where we’re at.”
Said Harless, “Our mindset is that it’s another playoff game. Just because they’re 10 miles away doesn’t change that. We’ve got to score one more run than them” to keep advancing.
While those sentiments are both pertinent and accurate, there’s one thing for sure: Neither Hudson nor Harless had to scramble calling other coaches to help assemble a scouting report. To say these teams know each other well is an understatement.
“A team like Mosley spreads the ball around the field, they only have a few guys that just pull,” Hudson said. “So I don’t talk a whole lot with our pitchers, I don’t go over each hitter with pitchers or the team. I just call the pitches.
“I might bring up some situational things about pitching to certain hitters. … Basically we’re spending time doing what we do. There’s a few small little things we put in every year for what Mosley might like to do more than other teams.”
Hudson has stayed with his plan to pitch hard-throwing senior right-hander Nick Nelson (6-1), who has struck out 97 batters in 69 innings.
“We worked on what their strengths are both Friday and (Monday), we know we have to get ready for some velocity,” Harless said. “We’ve focused on little things they do and worked on little things we do. The winner is going to execute the things they do well and defense what the other team does well.”
Harless said the Dolphins’ starting pitcher either will be senior Andrew Deramo or freshman Weston Bizzle. Unlike Hudson, he said he does discuss opposing hitters in an effort to better set team defense.
Both coaches again were in agreement that the outcome could hinge on which team best executes fundamental baseball, which usually provides at least a foundation for victory.
Both believe their teams are ready for the spotlight, and it should be a raucous venue considering the electric atmosphere of the district championship two weeks ago. In that regard, Hudson said that Rutherford will bring in two small sets of bleachers that will be located down the right-field line and a larger set for the area between the grandstand and third-base dugout.
“Our kids are excited there’s going to be a lot of people at the game,” Hudson said. “So far they seem to be good.
“I don’t have a doubt that we’ll play well. Every hit is going to be big. This is not going to be a softball game. Getting the first run is going to be big.”
That wasn’t lost on Harless.
“I can pretty much guarantee, that unless somebody makes the most mistakes they’ve ever made this is going to be a nail-biter,” he said. “Every game we’ve played you didn’t know who was going to win until the end.
“Playoff baseball is about who can handle pressure. It builds character. It builds confidence.”
And in this case, it has built a buzz.