Tuesday June 18th, 2024 11:46PM

STATE FINALS: Kemp hoping to bring his experience to Bears in 4A title series

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Jeremy Kemp has been here before. The rest of Cherokee Bluff has not.

The Bluff baseball coach guided Gainesville to the Class 5A state finals in 2015. On Saturday, he will lead the Bears into the Class 4A state championship series against top-ranked Starr’s Mill at AdventHealth Stadium in Rome. First pitch for an opening doubleheader is set for 5 p.m.

While the Red Elephants did not come away with a title in 2015 -- losing in three controversial games to Greenbrier in Augusta -- Kemp knows all too well what will be in store for his Bears.

“It’s a great feeling to get to the finals,” Kemp said after Bluff held off Holy Innocents’ 5-1 in Game 3 of their best-of-three semifinal series on Monday. A big part of Kemp’s job over the last four days has been getting his group ready to handle the outside noise that comes with any title showdown.

“We will have got to keep some of the emotions under control, coaches included,” he added. “First, I’ll tell (the kids) to just enjoy the moment, you know. See everything around you. See the stadium. You can’t get caught up in the things around you that don’t involve playing the game and getting prepared.

“But then, once the game starts, you’ve got to focus on each pitch, doing your job for that pitch. It’s still baseball. Pitching, hitting, playing defense.”

So far in the playoffs, the Bears (32-5) have played the part of a team on a mission. They’ve gone 8-1 in the 2024 postseason and are 1-0 in elimination games. The 32 wins are the most in Class 4A.

Kemp feels they’re peaking at the right time and said they’ll be headed to Rome looking to finish the task.

“I feel like we're playing our best baseball, minus one game, right now,” Kemp said. “You have to win five series to win a state championship. We just have to figure out how to win one more. That’s what we’re focused on.”

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