More than two dozen area softball teams across six different classifications will begin their quest for state titles this week.
Two teams -- Buford in Class AAAAA and East Jackson in Class AAA -- return to defend their 2016 state titles. The Lady Wolves, who won the Region 8-AAAAA title, are looking for their 11th consecutive state title spanning five different classifications. The Lady Eagles finished fourth in Region 8-AAA in 2017 after graduating the bulk of their title team.
Most classifications will begin their tournaments on Wednesday, however, Classes AAAAAA and AAAAAAA will not get under way until Thursday and Friday.
Buford coach Tony Wolfe said the state was forced to stagger the opening rounds.
“There are so many first round series that we just don’t have enough quality umpires to hold the first round in all the classifications on the same day,” Wolfe said. “It’s unfortunate but that’s just the way things are right now.”
Buford (21-4), behind senior pitcher Logan Caymol, is once again the overwhelming favorite to not just reach Columbus but come away with another state crown. Wolfe said Region 8-AAAAA is strong and could see as many as three teams with legitimate chances to reach the Elite 8 in Columbus.
“We like our team but you never know what can happen,” Wolfe said. “Logan is probably pitching her best ball of the year right now so we feel good with her in the circle. But I also think the (AAAAA) field is wide open. Carrollton, Wayne County, Starrs Mill are all real good. (Fellow 8-AAAAA team) Loganville is as dangerous as anyone in the field but they’ve been inconsistent. It should be an interesting tournament.”
East Jackson will travel to Region 7-AAA champion East Hall in an interesting first round matchup.
The Lady Vikings (18-9) have advanced past the first round just once in their history and face a Lady Eagles squad (16-12) that dropped six of their last seven games down the stretch. However, East Jackson knocked off East Hall twice during the regular season, 10-4 in Commerce and 5-4 in Rabbittown.
“They may have lost a lot from last year but they are still very good and showed that against us,” East Hall coach Josh Joiner said. “We’ll have to play our best. But if we play to our ability like we have most of the season we certainly have a chance.”
Meanwhile, Banks County of Region 8-AA, Jackson County of 8-AAA, and Jefferson of 8-AAAA all won their region championships and will take No. 1 seeds into the tournament. Commerce earned the No. 5 overall seed and will receive a first-round bye in the Class A Public tournament.
Below is a look at the northeast Georgia area teams in the state softball playoffs and their first round opponents (all first round series are best 2-of-3 games and will play doubleheaders on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, with the "if necessary" game on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday):
AREA TEAMS IN STATE SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS
(Area teams listed first, alphabetical order)
Winder-Barrow (Region 8, No. 4 seed) at Pope (R7, 1) 5 p.m. Thursday (DH)
Buford (R8, 1) vs. Hiram (R7, 4), 4 p.m. Wednesday (DH)
Flowery Branch (R8, 4) at Carrollton (R7, 1), TBA Wednesday (DH)
Chestatee (R7, 2) vs. Stephens County (R8, 3), TBA Wednesday (DH)
Jefferson (R8, 1) vs. White County (R7, 4), TBA Wednesday (DH)
East Hall (R7, 1) vs. East Jackson (R8, 4), 5 p.m. Wednesday (DH)
Jackson County (R8, 1) vs. Lumpkin County (R7, 4), TBA Wednesday (DH)
North Hall (R7, 3) at Franklin County (R8, 2), 5 p.m.Wednesday (DH)
Banks County (R8, 1) vs. Pepperell (R7, 4), 4 p.m. Wednesday (DH)
Class A Public
Commerce is the No. 5 overall seed and received a first round bye. They will play the winner of the Trion (12) vs. Jenkins County (21) first round series on Oct. 18.