The Region 8-AAA baseball race is open to a number of teams. Currently, Gainesville, North Hall, Oconee County and White County are atop the standings, but no one in the region should overlook Lumpkin County.
The Indians started the season at the bottom of the standings, losing four of their first five region games, but lately they've been on a tear, going 4-1 to push themselves toward the middle of the pack.
It's a trend teams in the region should be familiar with, given Lumpkin County's play last season.
"Last season, we struggled at the start of the season, but finished 10-4," said Indians coach Dustin Allen of his team, which started at the bottom of last year's Region 7-AAA standings but finished 9-8 in region play. "We always struggle to find our identity early."
Allen attributes the Indians' sluggish start the past two seasons to not having an indoor facility to prepare for the season during the winter, which a number of region teams have.
Lumpkin County's play recently suggests Allen's claim has merit. In the span of two weeks, the Indians have beaten two of Class AAA's top 10 teams - Oconee County and Gainesville.
"There are teams that can use all winter using kids who play nothing but baseball preparing for the season," Allen said. "We can't do anything. We have a drop-down net in the gym, but the wrestling and basketball teams need (the gym). We just have to bite the bullet, remain positive through the tough points of the season and catch up."
The Indians now hit the second half of region play not only intent on disrupting the top of 8-AAA, but to position themselves for a state playoff spot.
"I really believe that's a realistic goal," said Allen of a top-four finish in 8-AAA, which is required to make the state playoffs. "We're coming into our own and we have the potential to play with a lot of these teams.
"If we play the way we're capable of, the sky is the limit."
LADY RED ELEPHANTS TENNIS ON THE MAP: After winning just two region games last season, Gainesville's girls tennis team has put itself in a position to reach the state tournament.
The Lady Red Elephants have reloaded on multiple fronts, plugging four freshman into their top seven while being guided by first-year coach Kellie Stevens.
As a result, they find themselves 11-6 overall, and 9-3 in the region.
Stevens said the reason behind this year's surge is simple.
"We have more actual tennis players," said Stevens, who served as an assistant on Gainesville's staff for three seasons before taking over as coach. "In the past, we had kids who just came out and played. Now, we have year-round players who take lessons, and this is their sport. Overall, we have a bigger commitment from athletes on our team."
Freshmen control the No. 1 and 2 singles positions, and one each are on the No. 1 and 2 doubles team. Last year as eighth graders, they went undefeated in middle school league play.
GAINESVILLE GOLF GEARING UP: The Red Elephants boys team, who recently hosted and tied for third place in a tough field at the Big Red Shootout earlier this week at Chattahoochee Golf Course, is peaking at the right time, coach Bryson Worley said.
Gainesville is two weeks away from the region tournament and will play next week in the North Georgia High School Classic at Achasta Golf Course in Dahlonega.
The event is considered one of the state's top regular season tournaments.
"I feel like we're starting to peak," Worley said. "We're right where we need to be going into spring break. Right now, the biggest problem I have is trying to figure out which six golfers to play, and they shake that out during qualifiers.
"I'm proud of them, top to bottom."