Buford vs. Adairsville
When: Game 1 3 p.m. today, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 2 p.m. Saturday
Coaches: Buford, Tony Wolfe. Adairsville, Eric Bishop
Records: Buford (18-7, No. 3 Region 6-AA); Adairsville (21-5, No. 2 Region 7-AA)
Key players: Buford, 3B/P Josh Heddinger Jr. (.373 avg., 3 HR; 3-1, 3.36 ERA); P Eric Eck Sr. (6-1, 1.97 ERA); C Jamie Ritchie Jr. (.360 avg, 15 RBIs). Adairsville, OF Bo Edwards Sr. (.500 avg., 7 HR, 34 RBIs); C Cody Beemiller Jr. (.407 avg. 8 HR, 38 RBIs); SS Brandon Blome Jr. (.417 avg., 30 runs)
Outlook: Coaches often speak of the need to play your best at the right time of year.
That time is here, and both Buford and Adairsville appear to be peaking. During one stretch in mid-April, the Wolves lost four of five, but have closed strong with five straight wins, earning the school’s first playoff berth since 2006. Adairsville has reeled off an even more impressive run, winning 13 of its last 14 after a pair of one-run, extra-inning losses in late March.
Both teams feature deep, effective pitching staffs that give up few hits and fewer walks.
Eck leads Buford, striking out 62 in 30 innings. As a staff, the Wolves have struck out 210 and walked only 54 in 145 innings of work.
Jamey Barnes and Ethan Perry are the top arms for Adairsville, which features four pitchers with more than 20 innings logged and none with an ERA over 3.00.
With five regular starters hitting over .375, Adairsville has the more impressive individual offensive numbers, but neither team struggles to score. The Tigers average 8.7 runs per game, while Buford puts up 7.9.
Commerce vs. Landmark Christian
When: Game 1 5:30 p.m. today, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 2 p.m. Saturday
Coaches: Commerce, Steve Cottrell. Landmark Christian, Phil Williams
Records: Commerce (12-12, No. 3 Region 8-A); Landmark Christian (25-1, No. 2 Region 5-A)
Key players: Commerce, P/3B Carl Allen Sr. (5-5, 1.62 ERA); 1B Greg Hayes Sr. (.519 avg.). Landmark Christian, OF Kyle Wren Sr.; C Blake Austin Sr.; P/OF Jonathan Roberts Sr.
Outlook: The luck of the draw doesn’t necessarily imply good luck.
Commerce found that out first-hand when, after winning five of their last six to take third place in 8-A, the Tigers were matched up with Landmark Christian in the first round of the Class A state playoffs.
After finishing as the state runner-up in 2008 and 2009, the War Eagles have been ranked at the top of Class A for much of the season. However, after splitting the season series with Walker in a pair of one-run games, Landmark was left in a tie atop 5-A and took the No. 2 seed due to a tiebreaker.
Allen, who struck out 80 in 43 innings pitched in the regular season, is expected to take the mound for Commerce in Game 1.
He’ll be faced with the tall task of holding down one of Class A’s most productive lineups. The rest of the Tigers’ rotation is made up of sophomores Colton Davis and Josh Swistak.
Led by Wren (committed to Georgia Tech) and Austin (committed to Auburn), Landmark Christian averages more than 10 runs per game and has topped double figures 17 times this season.
Commerce has also thrived with a potent offense, scoring 8.6 runs per game. After going 0-8 in non-region games, the Tigers have hit the ball well lately. Despite three one-run wins to its credit, the average margin of victory in Commerce’s 12 wins is nearly 10 runs.
Gainesville vs. Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe
When: Game 1 4 p.m. today, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ivey-Watson Field
Coaches: Gainesville, Jeremy Kemp; Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Brad Langford.
Records: Gainesville (24-1, No. 1 Region 7-AAA); Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (17-8, No. 4 Region 6-AAA).
Key players: Gainesville, SS K.J. McAllister Sr. (.527 avg., 45 runs, 33 stolen bases); 2B Will Maddox Jr. (.482 avg., 10 HR, 47 RBI); P/OF/IF Ryan Griffith So. (.480 avg., 22 RBI, 27 runs); P/3B Hunter Anglin Fr. (.394 avg., 7 HR, 26 RBI, 9-0, 1.49 ERA). Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, IF/P Matt Osbourn Sr.; OF/P Cody Commons Sr.; C Aaron Legg Sr.; SS/P Justin Walker Jr.
Outlook: The Red Elephants have posted some gaudy offensive numbers this season. They hope that can translate to their first trip past the first round of the playoffs since 2004.
Gainesville cruised to its first region title in three years with strong hitting, a group of stellar young pitchers and are entering the playoffs on a 23-game winning streak.
“The good thing is that we’ve had a different guy step up on different days,” Kemp said. “No. 1-9 in our lineup can all hit and can all make the plays in the field.”
Kemp says that Anglin will get the ball for Game 1 on the mound. Gainesville’s freshman starter has already pitched in pressure situations this season, including the win against Creekview last week to secure the region title.
Kemp says the Game 2 starter will depend on the outcome of the first game, and he will have Griffith, Stephen Mason and David Gonzalez all ready to come in for relief in the day’s first game.
Meanwhile, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe appears to be a strong fourth seed. The Warriors were still in contention for the region’s No. 2 spot until they endured consecutive losses to Cedartown and Ringgold in the final two weeks of the regular season.
Following those losses, Ringgold and Carrollton assumed the No. 2 and 3 seeds respectively in the playoffs.
“Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe is a good, solid, scrappy team,” Kemp said. “All the playoff teams from Region 6-AAA are good, so we’re going to have to be ready to play.”
Jefferson vs. Crawford County
When: Game 1 4:30 p.m. Friday, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 2 p.m. Saturday.
Coaches: Jefferson, Tommy Knight. Crawford County, Shannon West.
Records: Jefferson (22-3, No. 1 Region 8-AA); Crawford County (13-10, No. 4 Region 5-AA).
Key players: Jefferson, C/1B/P Jake Fields Sr. (.578 avg., 12 HR, 36 RBI); 1B Andrew Bartek So. (.417 avg.); 3B Kyle Hardy Sr. (.417 avg.); SS Lucas Redd Sr. (.394 avg.). Crawford County, P/OF Jordy Radford Sr. (.415 avg.; 9-3, 1.92 ERA), P/OF Shane Smith Sr. (.393 avg.), 3B Chris Jackson Sr. (.385 avg.), P/C Levi Sanders Sr. (.431 avg.).
Outlook: There’s nothing new about this scenario for the Dragons: For the fourth consecutive season, Jefferson is playing at home to start the postseason as a result of a region championship.
“That’s a nice thing to have, to be able to win the region title and open up at home,” Knight said.
The new wrinkle for Jefferson this season is the assurity of playing at home all the way through, due simply to the way the brackets set up.
There really were no vulnerable moments during Jefferson’s regular season run. The Dragons’ only losses were twice to Class AAA’s Oconee County and a region loss to North Oconee. Jefferson won its first meeting against North Oconee 17-5. The Titans, the No. 2 seed, finished with two region losses, while Jefferson lost only one.
Before losing back-to-back regular season games, Jefferson had won 11 straight. Now, the Dragons are riding an eight-game streak leading into the first round series.
Meanwhile, Crawford County got into the postseason despite never winning more than two games consecutively during the regular season.
The Eagles dropped to the No. 4 seed from 5-AA after losing two of three games against No. 2 seed Callaway during the regular season, as well as their only meeting against No. 3 seed Lamar County, both of which finished one game ahead of Crawford County in the standings.
Lakeview vs. Walker
When: Game 1 4:30 p.m. today, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 noon Saturday
Records: Lakeview (18-7, 8-5 Region 8-A); Walker (19-5, 13-1 Region 5-A).
Key players: Lakeview, 1B/P Ross Biegler, Sr. (.577 avg., 25 RBI); P/SS Ralston Cash, Sr. (.469 avg., 11 home runs; 3.72 ERA); P/2B Taylor Simpson, Jr. (.507 avg., 2.39 ERA). Walker, P Kannon Price, Sr.; 1B/C Kyle Henderson, Sr.; SS/2B Art Sanguansri, Sr.
Outlook: Lakeview coach Deuce Roark knows what it is going to take for his Lions to get past Region 5-A champion Walker in the first round of the state playoffs: limiting the Wolverines’ offensive.
Walker enters today’s games as winners of 15 of its last 16 and averaging 10 runs per game — 11.4 in its last 16 games.
The Wolverines have scored more than 10 runs 11 times, more than 15 runs nine times and 22 runs twice.
“The key to our first round games will be limiting their scoring opportunities and playing exceptional defense,” Roark said. “We must take care and score when we have the opportunities too.”
Lakeview is the fourth seed out of Region 8-A and will need every bit of offense it can muster to withstand a Walker pitching staff that is allowing only four runs per game and boasts a No. 2 starter in Price who midway through the season had a 0.33 ERA.
Leading the way offensively for the Lions will be Cash, who has 39 RBIs on the season and Simpson, who not only has a 7-2 record as a pitcher, but 27 RBIs and four home runs.
“We need our guys to be tough outs and put the ball in play,” Roark said. “Walker is a great team and it’s going to take a team effort from us to win.”
Union County vs. Callaway
When: Game 1 3 p.m. today, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 1 p.m. Saturday
Coaches: Union County, C.T. Hussion. Callaway, Dusty Hubbard.
Records: Union County (18-7, No. 3 Region 8-AA); Callaway (17-7, No. 2 Region 5-AA)
Key players: Union County, P/3B Chaiz George Sr. (6-1, 1.64 ERA/7 HRs, 33 RBIs); C Dalton Everett Jr. (.385 avg., 5 HR, 23 RBIs); P/1B Brady McCarter Sr. (5-2, 66 K’s/.410 avg., 6 HRs); P/SS Blake Gowder Sr. (4-1, 50 K’s/7 HRs, 27 RBIs). Callaway, OF Dominique Smedley Jr.; P/3B Tanner Thompson So.; P/OF Chris Laye Sr.
Outlook: This first-round matchup presents a study in contrasts, with a Union County team based on power hitting and power pitching facing a Callaway team based on small ball and speed.
Although Union County hasn’t been to the state playoffs since 1995, Hussion says his team is not intimidated.
“Every game has been tough this season, it (has) been a battle the whole way through,” Hussion said. “Region 8-AA is full of (good teams), so almost every game has felt like a playoff game.”
Playing repeatedly in big games isn’t all that Hussion thinks will work the the Panthers’ advantage.
“We’ve played six doubleheaders this year, so that’s not going to be a new thing (for us),” he said.
Callaway has played one doubleheader this season, a split with Crawford County.
Union County batters have racked up 38 home runs, while its pitchers have collected 226 strikeouts, giving Union County the look of a power team.
“I know Callaway is a different team (than us),” Hussion said. “They play small ball with good defense and tremendous speed.”
White County vs. Cartersville
When: Game 1 4:30 p.m. today, Game 2 to follow; If necessary, Game 3 5 p.m. Saturday
Coaches: White County, John Brown. Cartersville, Stuart Chester.
Records: White County (19-6, No. 4 Region 7-AAA); Cartersville (20-6, No. 1 Region 6-AAA)
Key players: White County, P/3B David Sosebee Jr. (7-0, 0.42 ERA; .450 avg.); P/OF Luke Crumley Jr. (5-2: 9 HR, .425 avg.); SS Hayden Cummins Jr. (3 HR, .447 OBP). Cartersville, P Adam Clark Sr.; IF Laine Frazier Sr.; P Levi Mauldin Sr.
Outlook: Playing the two-time defending state champions isn’t exactly what White County had hoped for in the first round, but the Warriors are more than ready for the task.
“It’s a challenge, but you have to play somebody,” Brown said. “I’m confident the kids will show up and play.”
Brown will send his two aces — Sosebee and Crumley — to the mound in today’s games, but the coach had not decided who will pitch first. Sosebee’s 7-0 record might give him the edge as the Game 1 starter, but Brown said the real key to this series is remaining confident and staying calm in a hostile environment.
“Playing at their place hopefully won’t intimidate us,” Brown said. “They’ll have the home-field advantage for sure.
“All we have to do is go out and play and see what happens.”
Although not as dominant as teams in the past, this year’s Cartersville’s team all but dominated Region 6-AAA en route to its sixth-straight region championship.
“If you’re the No. 1 team in a region you have to be a good team,” Brown said of Cartersville, which has won five state titles since 2001 and finished second in 2004. “We’re just going to try to talk to our guys about how they’re not the same team as last year’s champs.
“Being intimidated worries me more than our ability to compete.”