When: Game 1 2 p.m. today, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 TBA p.m. Thursday
Where: Lakeview Academy
Coaches: Lakeview, Deuce Roark. Bremen, Mark Clark
Records: Lakeview Academy (25-1, No. 1 Region 8-A); Bremen (17-5, No. 2 Region 6-A)
Key players: Lakeview Academy, P/IF Ralston Cash (8-0, 0.69 ERA; .468 avg., 8 HR); P/OF Tyler Ward (7-0, 2.01 ERA); C Brett Armour (.458 avg. avg., 16 HR, 55 RBI). Bremen, SS Cal Hardy Sr. (.434 avg., 12 RBI); 2B Christian Pritchard Jr. (.493 avg., 38 RBI); P/3B Jay Wade Jr. (.450 avg., 36 RBI).
How they got here: Lakeview defeated Fellowship Christian 10-0, 19-0; Bremen defeated Walker 6-4, 14-9.
vs. Blessed Trinity
When: Game 1, 4:30 p.m. today, Game 2, 30 minutes following. Game 3, if necessary, 5:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Horace Jackson Field, Jefferson
Coaches: Jefferson, Tommy Knight. Blessed Trinity, Andy Harlin.
Records: Jefferson (22-3, No. 1 Region 8-AA); Blessed Trinity (20-8, No. 2 Region 6-AA)
How they got here: Jefferson defeated Model, 3-0, 13-6. Blessed Trinity defeated Lamar County, 10-0, 11-1.
Key players: Jefferson, P Chris Beck Sr. (8-2, 0.68 ERA, 118 K); 1B/DH Jake Fields Jr. (.565 avg., 10 HR, 34 RBI); SS Jamie Sexton Jr. (.420 avg., 7 HR, 25 RBI); P Chris Swancey Sr. (8-0, 1.32 ERA). Blessed Trinity, OF Jake Skole Jr. (.360 avg, 3 HR); SS Alex Cruz Jr. (.360 avg.).
Outlook: Both of these two teams weren’t even in Class AA last year, yet they face off today with a spot in the state quarterfinals on the line. Blessed Trinity, which competed in Class AAA last season, has been a force in the baseball community even though the school has only been around for nine years.
The Titans have qualified for the playoffs for seven straight seasons and have reached the quarterfinals every year since 2004, including 2006 when they won the Class AAA state title. But the Titans won’t be the only team with tradition on their side.
The Dragons are also a perennial playoff team. Jefferson has reached the playoffs all but six times since 1994, advancing to the semifinals in four of those years.
"That’s a heck of a program," Blessed Trinity coach Andy Harlin said. "It’s gonna be a tremendous challenge for us."
The main challenge lies in the pitching of Jefferson, which boasts two top-notch starters in Swancey and Beck, who will start Game 1 and is widely considered to be a first or second round draft pick in this year’s MLB draft.
"He’s obviously special," Harlin said of Beck. "He’s not a thrower, he’s a pitcher. He’s not only blessed with physical talent but he is strong mentally as well.
"We haven’t seen a pitcher like him all year."
Beck and Swancey help the Dragons hold opponents to just two runs a game, and also help offensively, where the team is averaging nine runs per contest.
Jefferson coach Tommy Knight knows that his team will need that offense to advance out of the second round.
"I’m hoping we can score some runs on them," Knight said. "I think their hitting is better than their pitching.
"But they play in a tough region," he added. "The fourth best team in that region beat the No. 1 team in the state in Round 1."
Knowing that, Knight feels confident because the Dragons have plenty of pitching.
"Pitching is the key especially in the playoffs," Knight said. "Whoever has the depth in pitching will always come out on top."
The Dragons, who have won 11 straight, will need that pitching to slow down a Blessed Trinity offense that is averaging eight runs per game and has scored 10 or more runs in four straight games.
"We have some guys that are swinging it pretty good right now," Harlin said.
When: Game 1 4 p.m. today, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 4 p.m. Thursday
Coaches: Banks County, Joe Lord. Westminster, Jim Jefferson
Records: Banks County (18-8, No. 2 Region 8-AA); Westminster (16-10, No. 4 Region 6-AA)
Key players: Banks County, C Zack Dale Sr. (.432 avg., 6 HR, 30 RBIs); OF Justin Gibbs Sr. (.456 avg., 38 runs, 18 SB); 3B Chris Porter Sr. (.438 avg., 23 runs, 26 RBIs). Westminster, OF Ross Conway Sr.; 1B Joseph Withrow Sr.; P J.D. DeYonker Sr.
How they got here: Banks County defeated Chattooga 8,0, 9-4; Westminster defeated Pike County 9-8, 5-3.
Outlook: After a successful road trip in the first round, the Leopards are rewarded with a home series against fourth-seeded Westminster, who are coming off an upset of Class AA’s top-ranked Pike County last week.
The first-round sweep sends the Wildcats to Homer on a six-game winning streak. They look to advance past to the state quarterfinals after back-to-back years of second-round elimination.
Westminster enters the series with a team batting average of .325. Conway and Withrow have provided hot bats in the Wildcats’ lineup.
Withrow, DeYonker, James Lively, William Bridges, and David Robertson led Westminster to a 3.40 team ERA.
But a hot streak and a team batting average over .300 won’t make the Wildcats’ series with Banks County any easier.
The Leopards are led by a trio of sluggers in Dale, Gibbs and Porter, who are each batting over .400.
The big three have a supporting cast in Stephen Smith (.397 avg), Kyle Smith (.371 avg., 4 HR, 26 RBIs) and Bill Redmon (.321 avg.).
On the mound, the Leopards look for a repeat outing from Kasey Hudgins, who pitched a complete-game shutout against Chattooga in the first round. Tyler McEntire also looks for an encore performance after striking out five hitters in a two-inning relief appearance in Game 2.