Monday May 30th, 2016 5:15AM

Softball: Area teams prepare for playoff push

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
With the regular season winding down, area softball team's are trying to finish strong as the jockeying for seedings in upcoming region tournaments draws near.

Some regions, like 8-AA, 8-AAAA, and 8-AAAAA have completed their regular season while some teams, like Buford in 7-AAA, have already clinched the top spot with one more week left in the regular season.

No region will be as competitive as 8-AA when the region tournaments get underway. Jefferson won the regular season with Social Circle taking second. Union County was third, followed by Oglethorpe County, Rabun County, and Washington-Wilkes.

But Jefferson and Union County split a pair of games during the regular season while Union County dropped two one-run games to Social Circle while Jefferson swept Social Circle during the regular season.

Union County coach Jessica Stewart said the tournament is wide-open for whichever team gets hot.

"We played Jefferson very tough and we lost two close games to Social so really anyone can win this thing," she said. "I feel we have a very good chance. The key will be pitching and getting some big hits."

The Lady Panthers have relied on freshman pitcher Laken Chambers, who has progressed in her first year of varsity ball. Junior catcher Courtney Busbee leads Union with a .390 batting average.

Jefferson has been led by the pitching duo of Olivia Husted and Caitlin Cantrell. The Lady Dragons Savannah Snapp, Husted, and Jordan Phillips have led them at the plate most of the season.

Region 8-AA will begin its region tournament Oct. 5 with the top two seeds getting a first round bye. Union County (3) will play host to Washington-Wilkes (6) while Rabun County (5) will travel to Oglethorpe County (4) in best-of-three series'.

In Region 7-AAA, No. 1-ranked and six-time defending state champion Buford has been the class of the league, running the table so far. The region wraps up the regular season this week before the region tournament gets underway Oct. 5 at the Lanier Pointe Softball Complex in Gainesville.

East Hall coach Jenny Crow, whose Lady Vikings have been the biggest surprise of the season and currently sit tied for second with Dawson County, said it is wide-open for the three spots behind undefeated Buford.

"I think it's going to be hard to knock Buford off but really any one of about four or five teams could get the other three spots," Crow said. "We have all beaten each other so it should be a very competitive and fun tournament."

After Buford, East Hall, and Dawson County, Banks County is fourth, with 2012 region runner-up Fannin County in fifth. North Hall and White County are tied for sixth with West Hall eighth.

East Hall will play host to Buford on Thursday and wrap up the regular season next week. Crow, who is trying to guide the Lady Vikings to their first-ever state playoff appearance, said her team is ready for the challenge.

"We had a strong group two years ago that was not able to get out of the region," Crow said. "That's our goal and most of these girls were on that team and remember that. If they come to play, I feel we have a good shot at making the playoffs."

In Region 8-AAAAA, the regular season has concluded with Heritage taking the top seed heading into next week's region tournament. Loganville was second, Apalachee third, and Flowery Branch fourth, with the top four teams separated by just three games. Winder-Barrow is fifth and Salem is sixth. Gainesville is seventh and will play Salem at 5 p.m. Monday in Winder, as the region tournament gets underway.

Heritage and Loganville earned a bye with Flowery Branch playing the winner of the Winder-Barrow/Cedar Shoals play-in game. (EDITOR'S NOTE: This corrects an erroneous report earlier that Gainesville would not take part in the region tournament.)

Lady Falcons coach Laura Beaver said it should be a wide-open tournament.

"I feel like anyone really has a chance certainly to get into the playoffs," Beaver said. "Heritage is probably the favorite but we're all pretty close."

For the Lady Falcons, Beaver said the pitching of senior pitcher Jessica Thomas is the key . However, they feature a potent lineup with two of
their top three batters -- junior center fielder Kelly Kahlert, a North Georgia commit, and sophomore second baseman Bailey Sims -- both batting over .500 on the season. Seniors Casey Zoeller (ss) and Megan Prichard (c) give them a solid top of the order.

"We know we will be able to score runs but the key will be our pitchers and defense keeping people off base and from scoring. If we can do that, I like our chances," Beaver said.

Flowery Branch is looking for its first trip to the playoffs in Class AAAAA after falling in the first round of the region tournament each of the past two seasons.

"It was frustrating the last two years so our first goal is to get into the playoffs. Then we'll see if we can win (the region title)," Beaver said.

In Region 8-AAAA the regular season was complete with the region tournament set to begin next week. Madison County finished with a perfect 8-0 record. Walnut Grove was second, Lumpkin County third, Lanier was fourth, Stephens County fifth, and Eastside sixth.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 2 years ago )
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 2 years ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 2 years ago )
High School Sports
Truex’s luck turns with dominating win In Coca-Cola 600
CONCORD, NC - The heartbreak kid survived 600 miles without another broken heart. Instead, Martin Truex, Jr. broke records in Sunday night’s victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a race in which the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota set new standards for domination.
By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
12:41AM ( 4 hours ago )
Dietrich hits HR, drives in 4 as Marlins beat Braves
Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before being hit on the back of his head by a foul ball hit into his dugout, and the Miami Marlins beat Atlanta 7-3 on Sunday to avoid being swept by the last-place Braves for the second time this season.
By The Associated Press
12:22AM ( 4 hours ago )
Bulldogs eliminated, McCoy still alive at NCAAs
The No. 6-ranked Georgia men’s golf team was eliminated from the NCAA Championships on Sunday, but senior and former Habersham Central standout Lee McCoy remained in the hunt for national medalist honors.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:28PM ( 7 hours ago )
Alexander Rossi pulls off stunning upset in 100th Indy 500
Alexander Rossi outlasted his faster rivals _ and his fuel tank _ for a stunning victory Sunday in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500
5:50PM ( 11 hours ago )
Severino helps Syracuse sweep G-Braves
Pedro Severino went 1-for-3 with two RBI, boosting the Syracuse Chiefs to a 3-1 victory over the Gwinnett Braves Sunday afternoon at Coolray Field.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:25AM ( 19 hours ago )