As the second round of the softball state playoffs begins Wednesday, three area schools will jump into action with hopes of moving on to Columbus the following week.
North Hall and Buford will continue on in the Class AAAA playoffs, while Flowery Branch keeps rolling in Class AAAAA.
With two wins in the best-of-three series, programs will secure a spot in the championship weekend at Columbus.
NORTH HALL: The Trojans (22-8) have been kept from the state playoffs for nearly 10 years.
This year, they stood toe-to-toe with Buford in the Region 8-AAAA championship game, falling 1-0 in extra innings.
According to MaxPreps, North Hall is the 10th-best team in Class AAAA.
Wednesday, the Trojans will travel to Loganville to play Walnut Grove, the No. 2 team in Class AAAA. The doubleheader will begin at 5 p.m. with an “if necessary” game to be played Thursday.
The Warriors (25-5) are the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AAAA.
Walnut Grove is averaging nearly nine runs per game, but, in the last three games, North Hall freshman pitcher Kendyl Chase has allowed just two earned runs.
In 30 games, the Warriors have allowed 42 opponents to cross the plate. The Trojans are averaging just over six runs per contest.
BUFORD: The Wolves (24-6) are in search of their ninth consecutive state title.
Buford picked up its sixth region championship in the last seven years with a 1-0 win over North Hall in a pitcher’s duel on Oct. 12.
The Wolves will be hosting Thomas County Central, Region 1-AAAA’s third seed, Wednesday beginning at 5 p.m.
This second-round match up is billed to be a “great” one by Buford coach Tony Wolfe. The Wolves are ranked fourth and the Yellow Jackets third in Class AAAA.
“Their program is a proud program,” Wolfe said. “I think they’ll come out and compete and give us their best shot. It should be a great series.”
Despite the fact Thomas County Central is averaging nearly eight runs per game and Wolfe’s team is averaging just under seven, The Buford coach doesn’t believe this series will be a high-scoring affair.
“Typically, at this point, it becomes more of pitchers battles,” Wolfe said. “A lot of runs are scored in the regular season. Get to the playoffs and it’s all about pitchers and defense.”
Not only is the matchup a “top five” pairing, but it’s a rematch of the 2014 Class AAAA state championship game. In that game, Buford run-ruled the Yellow Jackets 9-1 in six innings.
FLOWERY BRANCH: The Falcons (19-13) are making their second consecutive appearance in the state playoffs, after not making the postseason since 2009 prior to that trip.
Flowery Branch is representing Region 8-AAAAA as the third seed and pulled off a first-round upset of Region 5-AAAAA No. 2 seed Alexander.
The Falcons swept the Cougars 3-2, 13-2 in the best-of-three series.
Flowery Branch is averaging 6.6 runs per game, while allowing five runs per contest this season.
For their second-round matchup, the Falcons will be on the road facing Northside (Columbus), the No. 1 team in Region 1-AAAAA.
The Patriots (24-10) have allowed just 77 runs in 34 games this season and scored 286 in that time.
The series between the two will begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday with a doubleheader.