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This week: Big Red baseball starts key series
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The Gainesville baseball team can find out a lot about itself when it opens a two-game series with Loganville at 5:55 p.m. Friday.

Undoubtedly the Red Elephants’ toughest opponent to date this season, the series pits a pair of nationally-ranked teams against each other for two Region 8-AAAAA games that feature plenty of college-level — and possibly future professional-level — talent. Baseball America ranked both teams in the top 10 of their national list released March 26, with Loganville (16-2, 9-1) at eighth and Gainesville (15-2, 7-1) tenth.

The Red Elephants have to complete a series against Cedar Shoals before Game 1 of the heralded series, where they look to extend a six-game unbeaten streak. Over the span, they have allowed just one run. They also didn’t give up a single hit in their series with Clarke Central, with brothers Michael and Jonathan Gettys both recording no-hitters.

Meanwhile, Loganville is taking a break from region play before Friday to recover from a 2-1 loss to Winder-Barrow, which snapped a 12-game winning streak.

Should either team sweep the series, they’ll have a clear lead of the region, which concludes play on April 24. The second game is the following Monday at Ivey-Watson Field.

The matchup will feature a number of players who have already committed to Division-I baseball programs. Among that list includes three potential future teammates at the University of Georgia in Gainesville’s Michael Gettys and Skyler Weber, along with Loganville’s Clint Frazier. The Red Devils outfielder is also a projected early-round MLB draft pick.

FALCONS ROAD TO PLAYOFFS A TOUGH ONE: The Red Elephants aren’t the only team in Region 8-AAAAA holding on to playoff position while facing tough competition.

Flowery Branch is also in the hunt, but with even more pressure to win this week when it faces Winder-Barrow. Currently sitting in fourth place, the final playoff spot, the Falcons (12-7, 7-3) can do wonders for its postseason odds with even a single win against the Bulldoggs on Monday or Wednesday. Both games start at 5:55 p.m., with Wednesday’s game at Hog Mountain Sports Complex.

But splitting the series won’t be an easy task. Winder-Barrow (13-3, 8-2) is enjoying an stellar season of its own with wins over Gainesville and Loganville this year. The Bulldoggs currently sit third in the region.

Meanwhile, Flowery Branch is being chased by Apalachee, which fell to the Falcons on Friday and currently sit a game behind in the standings. The two teams split the season series after the Wildcats won on Wednesday.

STATE-RANKED SOCCER RIVALS FACE OFF: Two of the area’s state-ranked boys soccer teams will battle on the pitch this week when West Hall visits Johnson at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Although the teams are no longer region foes following the Knights’ jump to Class AAAA, the Oakwood rivalry is strong as ever. Not only are both teams ranked fourth in their respective classifications by the state coaches poll, they’re also part of the all-classification list. West Hall is No. 13, while Johnson is one spot down at No. 14.

The Knights are looking for their fifth straight win over the Spartans, dating back to 2009.

On the girls schedule, Class AAA’s ninth-ranked Jackson County girls host Class AA’s sixth-ranked Oglethorpe County at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

G-BRAVES HIT THE ROAD: The Gwinnett Braves embark on a seven-game road trip this week with three stops along the way.

Gwinnett opens a three-game series with Durham Bulls tonight, then visit Charlotte Thursday and Friday before closing out the trip against Norfolk on Saturday and Sunday.

THE MASTERS TEES OFF: The PGA Tour’s flagship tournament kicks off its 77th installment Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta.

All eyes will be on Tiger Woods when begins his bid for a fifth green jacket, having just reclaimed the world’s No. 1 ranking following his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 25. His competition includes Rory McIlroy, the player he replaced at No. 1, and 2012 champion Bubba Watson.

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