Thursday February 11th, 2016 8:05AM

Baseball: Region races heating up, getting tight for area teams

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Thanks in part to rival North Hall, Buford baseball suddenly finds itself looking at a two-game lead in the Region 7-AAA title race.

But you would never know it to talk to Wolves head coach Tony Wolfe.

That's because Wolfe knows just how close the race in Region 7-AAA has been -- a marathon that he knows could get awful tight, awful fast -- especially with a wounded White County breathing down Buford's neck.

"I think it's going to go down to the last week," said Wolfe, whose team is 10-0 in 7-AAA will take on White County (8-2) in a battle of the top two teams in 7-AAA on Wednesday and Friday; North Hall is just behind at 7-3. "We've got to make sure that we stay humble and continue to get better. All of a sudden we've found ourselves out front with a little lead. But we've got to make sure that doesn't get to our heads.

"This thing has a long way to go yet."

It's a sentiment that coaches in leagues around northeast Georgia -- not just 7-AAA -- can identify with. And at this point of the campaign every game means something.

Just ask Flowery Branch coach Scot Myers.

The Falcons are locked in a battle for Region 8-AAAAA supremacy with rivals Gainesville, as well as Loganville and Winder-Barrow, and, after splitting contests with the Red Elephants already this season and games against the Red Devils and Bulldoggs to come, Myers knows his team cannot afford an off night.

"I hate to say we can't have a slip up, but we need to focus and try to win every ball game we can," said Myers, whose team is 4-1 in 8-AAAAA, tied with Gainesville; Loganville leads the way at 5-0, Winder is 5-2. "We really have to try and stay away from a bad night. We've just got to keep plugging away."

With the pitching the Falcons possess, they know they should be in every game -- but they also know that pitching will be tested against line-ups like Loganville and Winder -- or even Heritage, Conyers for that matter, which the Falcons will play on Friday

"If we can pitch like we did against Gainesville, we'll be OK; they've got a very potent line-up, and we won at home and had a chance to win at their place," Myers said. "But I think there's a lot of parity this year. We've got 10 games left. A lot left to go, and we'll see things play out over the next couple of weeks. It could be one of four-five teams that could win the region."

Certainly the Red Elephants are amongst that group, and Gainesville faces a huge slate of contests this week. The Red Elephants already got a key, 18-12 victory on Monday at Winder and will look for the sweep on Wednesday at Ivey-Watson Field. The Red Elephants will then take on Loganville in the first of a two-game slate on Friday at home before traveling to Loganville on Friday.

It will complete a trying six-game stint for Gainesville that also included the split with the Falcons, and if the Red Elephants can come through with just one loss, they will like teir chances at retaining the 8-AAAAA crown. Though coach Jeremy Kemp noted last week that, in this region, anything can still happen.

"It's going to be a crazy region," Kemp said after a 4-3 win over Flowery Branch. "We're going to have to be at our best. There won't be many off nights."

Wolfe acknowledges a similar though process -- and though his team may be No. 1 in Class AAA, the Wolves narrowly avoided a region setback on last Wednesday, coming from behind to win at North Hall -- which promptly responded by sweeping previously undefeated White County in two games.

"Obviously we have a lot of respect for North Hall; we were very fortunate to get out of North Hall with a win the other night. And they established that they're in the race, and they're so well-coached," Wolfe said. "White County is also a great team with great pitching. I'm also impressed with West Hall. They're in it for the long run. And Dawson starting to turn it on... Any given day you don't know what can happen in this region."

The Trojans have already run a Buford-White County gauntlet, going 2-2, as well as sweeping West Hall -- which is currently in fourth place at 6-4 in 7-AAA. Dawson County, which is now 5-5 in league play and has won four straight, is also looking to get into the playoff race and has a win over North Hall on its resume to help bolster that attempt. All the teams will get one more contest against each other in 7-AAA.

East Hall is just behind the Tigers and faces a key series with Dawson County on Wednesday and Friday.

So while there may be plenty of games to come, the next few days could have much to say in the 7-AAA and 8-AAAAA races.

NOTES: Elsewhere in northeast Georgia, Stephens County is battling at the top of the Region 8-AAAA race, along with Lanier, Eastside and Walut Grove. Lumpkin County is still in the mix with three region losses. ... Jefferson is pulling away with Region 8-AA at 8-0 in region play. Rabun County is one game back, but the Dragons already have a 10-0 win over the Wildcats.
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