As the high school softball regular season winds down over the next week, nearly a dozen area teams are still in the running for high seeds in their respective regions.
Buford is still, well, Buford; Union County is having another solid season; and Region 7-AAA is the gold standard in Class AAA statewide. As for everyone else, the possibilities are endless as to who will advance to the state tournament.
In Region 7-AAA, five-time defending state champion Buford has been ranked No. 1 all season and only a 2-1 loss to Class AAAAA No. 3 Allatoona has kept the Lady Wolves (17-1, 5-0 in region) from an undefeated season. However, they still face a tough test in their season finale against fourth-ranked Dawson County next Wednesday.
Dawson County (12-6-1, 4-0) began the season winning the Lanier Point Invitational and the Lady Tigers may be playing their best ball of the season since then having won 7-of-their-last-9 games. They finish their region schedule with three games over the next eight days, including the season finale at Buford.
"We've been playing well but we have a tough finish at Buford," Dawson coach Jimmy Pruett said. "It would be nice to win the region but we feel good about (making the state tournament) if we just keep playing well."
Fannin County (16-8, 3-2) is ranked ninth in Class AAA and the Lady Rebels' only region losses have been to Buford and Dawson County. They are in a group of four teams (North Hall, Banks County, White County) within one game of each other for third place in the region. The Lady Rebels are playing their best ball of the season riding a season-long six-game win streak.
In Region 8B-AA, fourth-ranked Union County (15-5, 5-1 in subregion) has a half-game lead over Jefferson. The Lady Dragons (12-13, 4-1) finish on the road at Oglethorpe County, the only region team to knock off Union County this season. Rabun County has struggled at times and little is known about just how good 8A-AA is, which includes Social Circle, Washington-Wilkes, Oglethorpe County, and Greene County.
In Region 8-AAA, Jackson County (10-10-1, 4-1 in region) is in a battle with fifth-ranked Franklin County (18-6, 4-1) for first place but five teams are within one game of the top spot. Franklin knocked off Jackson two weeks ago and both teams are just one game ahead of Oconee County, Morgan County, and Elbert County. Jackson County finishes with road games against Morgan County and East Jackson while Franklin finishes against North Oconee and Morgan County. However, if Morgan County wins out the Lady Bulldogs will win the regular season title.
"We feel like we're playing pretty well right now," Jackson County coach Chessie Laird said. "It would be tremendous for us and the girls, who have worked extremely hard, if we could win the region. But there a lot of even teams so we have to play well every game. We played a lot of tough teams early so we feel that will help us down the stretch."
In Region 8-AAAA, Lumpkin County (14-7, 5-1 in region) sits just one game behind third-ranked Madison County (6-0 in region) for first place in the region and one-half game behind Walnut Grove (6-1 in region). The Lady Indians control their own destiny finishing their region and regular season with region games against Madison County on Thursday and Walnut Grove on Saturday with a chance to take the top seed heading into the region tournament.
In Region 8-AAAAA, Flowery Branch (15-12, 5-2 in region) is in third place and was slated to compete its regular season on Tuesday against winless Clarke Central. The Lady Falcons, who have won four straight region contests, will finish third with a win heading into the region tournament.
Also in Region 8-AAAAA, Gainesville , while not challenging for a top spot, has won five games in 2012, two in the region, after winning just one game in all of 2011.