To the naked, unknowing eye, FPD’s appearance this weekend at the doorstep of a state title might appear baffling and bizarre.
After all, casual observers might say, this was a team that had undergone a rather late offseason coaching change, and the team was one that had not so much as sniffed a GISA state championship in almost two decades.
So perhaps, when the season began some three months ago, there was reason to believe that if the Vikings made it to the final weekend on the schedule they would be like uninvited, unexpected guests looking to crash a party.
If that’s the case, then surprise, surprise, baseball fans, there’s a knock at the door.
“This means a lot to me because this is the first one (in baseball) I’ve ever been a part of,” senior Jordan Corbitt said of FPD’s latest state championship series berth.
Two wins over reigning GISA Class AAA champion Tattnall Square during Friday’s and Saturday’s best-of-three finals series and FPD can claim its first title in the sport since 1992. Currently, that year’s championship is the only one in program history. By contrast, the Trojans have won three of the past five.
Despite those figures, the Vikings are not feeling like series underdogs; and with good reason. In the teams’ only two meetings of the regular season, the Region 2-AAA champion Vikings swept the Trojans.
“We don’t see ourselves as (postseason) underdogs, we’re very confident going into the games,” senior outfielder Taylor Jones said. “They’re the past state champion and they’re a good team, but that doesn’t scare us.
“It’s just going to be a fun, exciting series.”
According to head coach Jimmy Turner, the mastermind behind that 1992 FPD team, it has been the on- and off-field contributions of his six seniors, Corbitt and Jones included, that have made this year a successful one.
“They’re great. They’re all multi-faceted guys. They’re not one-dimensional guys,” Turner said. “Spiritually they’re on board. They’ve got their priorities in order, and then academically, they’re going to go to college and be successful. Yeah, the other players look up to them, definitely.”
Whether it’s watching veterans like Corbitt holding court in the locker room talking to younger teammates about pitching or watching the momentum-changing exploits of home run-bashing sluggers like Jones, Turner knows his team lives and dies with its oldest players.
“About leadership, you’ve got to look at Jordan Corbitt a little bit,” Turner said of his ace starter. “Pitching’s 90 percent of the deal for sure, and you put him out there and you know you’re going to get a win. I know the players have looked at him like that.”
In 16 appearances this year, Corbitt is 12-0 with a 1.46 ERA. Most notably, he tossed a 37-pitch perfect game last month against Windsor. It was the third perfect game in program history. Part of a 15-0 FPD win, the outing helped give the Vikings a lift with their region schedule looming the following week.
“It got everybody fired up, like ‘Man, this is what we’re fully capable of,’” Corbitt said of the perfect game. “And if we play to the best of our abilities, we should have a really good shot of winning the whole thing. It’s all about who shows up and plays the best.”
Along with Corbitt, fellow senior and pitcher Nick Mullis — whose three seventh-inning outs last Friday helped the Vikings hold on to beat George Walton and advance to the finals — has been a key contributor, going 6-2 with three saves and a 3.21 ERA. Turner called him a “very dependable and durable” No. 2 starter behind Corbitt.
A constant offensive threat, Jones is batting .464 with six home runs and a team-high 36 RBI. The Georgia Southern signee’s ability to step up and let balls jump off his bat at a whim has had his teammates awe-struck.
“Every time he steps up to the plate, we’re all saying, ‘Aw man, just let him catch one and let’s see how far it goes,’” Corbitt said. “In practice, he just flicks them out and then when he actually catches one it’s just so stunning to see how far it will go. Every time he steps up to the plate, it’s always a very good feeling when the game’s on the line or you just need that extra spark.”
FPD’s senior heroes
Jordan Corbitt: SP/IF. .400 avg, 11 2B. 12-0 record, 1.46 ERA.
Nick Mullis: P/IF/OF. 6-2 record, 3.21 ERA, 3 saves.
Taylor Jones: OF. .464 avg, 6 HR.
David Darnell: IF/P. .329 avg, 13 RBI.
Taylor Harden: OF. .291 avg, 13 RBI.
Austin Herrmann: C. .347 avg, 4 sac flies.