Today marks the start of the postseason for high school softball, and this year’s tournaments will feature five area schools spanning three classifications — most notably Buford, which is the three-time defending Class AA champion.
Other area schools in the postseason are Union County, White County, Habersham Central and Dawson County, which faces the daunting task of playing Buford in the first round at 5 p.m. today at Buford City Park.
All first round matchups are best-of-three series, with Games 1 and 2 being played today as part of a doubleheader and Game 3, if necessary, on Thursday.
The Lady Tigers (14-13-1) are a No. 4 seed from Region 8-AA and the Lady Wolves (24-4) are the No. 1 seed — they’re also ranked No. 1 in AA — from Region 6.
“Any time you open up against the three-time defending state champions, that’s a big challenge,” Dawson County coach Jimmy Pruett said. “But we look at it as a great opportunity, because you don’t get many chances to play the No. 1 team in the state, so we’re actually excited.”
The Lady Tigers have primarily used two pitchers this season — sophomore Jenna Abbott and senior Cheyenne Bennett — but Pruett wouldn’t say if he’d use one or both in the series.
Lady Wolves coach Tony Wolfe identified Abbott through his scouting reports as a pitcher his team should be aware of.
“Everyone tells me she’s pretty special,” he said. “We have a common opponent in Union County, which has one of the best offenses in Georgia, period, and she held them to five runs in three games.”
The Lady Wolves have two special pitchers of their own in seniors Karly Fullem and Melissa Dickie. Wolfe said he’ll use them in a two-pitcher rotation throughout the tournament. Both have pitched since their freshman year and each of their seasons have ended with state titles.
Fullem, who is committed to Georgia Tech, is 11-1 on the season with a 0.75 ERA and Dickie, committed to North Georgia College & State University, is 11-3 with a 1.35 ERA.
Despite the Lady Wolves’ recent dominance of Class AA, Wolfe said Buford won’t overlook the Lady Tigers.
“All our kids are experienced, and know that on a given day anything can happen,” Wolfe said. “I feel like we’ll come out ready. Regardless of what we’ve done in the past, it’s always an exciting time when the playoffs come.”
Following Buford in the Class AA state polls is No. 2-ranked Union County. The Lady Panthers (24-1-1) are a No. 1 seed from Region 8 and will play host to Lovett, the No. 4 seed from Region 6, starting today at 4 p.m. in Blairsville.
Union County comes into the state tournament riding a 21-game win streak.
The Lady Panthers lean primarily on junior pitcher Angie Hughes (20-1, 0.58 ERA and 272 strikeouts in 137).
The powerful offense Wolfe alluded to is led by leadoff hitter Kaitlyn Seabolt (.506 average, four home runs) and cleanup hitter Tori Dyer (.475 average).
Union County coach Jessica Stewart said the Lady Panthers have a specific mission this postseason. Their only loss was 3-2 to Buford and they want another shot at the Lady Wolves.
“I think that’s our goal to get back to Columbus and see them,” Stewart said.
In Class AAA, No. 6-ranked White County enters the playoffs as a No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAA. They’ll play Region 6’s third-seed Carrollton, with Game 1 starting today at 4 p.m.
Lady Warriors (22-6) coach John Brown said they’ll go into the playoffs with the same two-man rotation they used during the regular season of junior Callie McDonald (10-3) and senior Stephanie Satterfield (11-3).
Satterfield is also White County’s biggest presence at the plate, hitting close to .500 with 10 home runs.
“Hopefully we’ll play well and if we do, we should do farely well against Carrollton,” Brown said. “We’re expecting a good contest from them and hopefully we’ll give one back.”
Habersham Central is Class AAAA’s Region 8 No. 3 seed and will play Region 6 No. 2 Chamblee beginning today at 5 p.m.
The Lady Raiders (18-8) will ride pitcher Jordin Ellingson as far as they can. She was 10-5 on the season with a 1.10 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 105 innings.
Habersham Central is in the playoffs for the first time in school history, but coach Stephanie Thomas and the rest of the Lady Raiders want to do more than just make an appearance.
“Of course it’s extremely important just to get here,” she said. “Now that we’re here we want to continue to play with a drive and a quest to get to the Elite Eight in Columbus.”