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Saturday December 15th, 2018 3:50PM

Baseball: Run to the playoffs highlights final week of regular season

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

The final week of the regular season has arrived and several northeast Georgia teams already have clinched playoff spots. Others, however, are fighting for their playoff lives.

Gainesville, Buford, Jefferson, West Hall, Jackson County, North Hall, and Rabun County all have punched tickets to the playoffs in their respective classifications. Some of those are still playing for higher seedings, however.

Many others like Habersham Central, Flowery Branch, Chestatee, White County, East Hall, Dawson County, and Commerce all are still fighting for playoff spots. Two regions -- Region 8-2A and Region 8-3A -- have completed their region schedules.

In Region 8-6A, Gainesville already has clinched a playoff spot. The Red Elephants (18-7, 9-3 Region 8-6A) are tied with Winder-Barrow (16-9, 9-3 Region 8-6A) but the Bulldoggs took the head-to-head series 2-1 earlier in the season. Both are two games ahead of Lanier (16-11, 7-5 Region 8-6A) and Winder-Barrow and the Longhorns close out the season with a three-games series this week. Two wins for the Bulldoggs will clinch the title for Winder. However, Gainesville can claim the title with a sweep of Apalachee (14-11, 3-9 Region 8-6A) and a Lanier series win over the Bulldoggs. Lanier can claim the title with a sweep of Winder and an Apalachee sweep of the Red Elephants, who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Lanier.

Meanwhile, Habersham Central (12-11, 4-8 Region 8-6A) and Dacula (14-13, 4-8 Region 8-5A) are tied for the fourth spot three games behind Lanier. Habersham can claim the fourth spot with a series win over the Falcons and can even claim the No. 3 seed with a sweep of Dacula and a Winder sweep of Lanier. The Raiders won the season series against Lanier 2-1.

In Region 8-5A, Buford (17-10, 8-1 Region 8-5A) already has clinched a playoff spot and sits in a first place tie with Loganville (20-6, 8-1 Region 8-5A). But the Wolves dropped their first game against the Red Devils 4-2 on Friday and close out their season this week against Loganville at home on Monday and two games against third place Walnut Grove. Buford needs a win on Monday and one against Walnut Grove to clinch the region title. A Loganville win, however, would give the Red Devils the season sweep over the Wolves and Buford would need to sweep the Warriors and have Loganville lose both games to last place Johnson to claim the crown.

Flowery Branch (11-14, 4-4 Region 8-5A) sits in third place two games ahead of Clarke Central (7-15, 3-7 Region 8-5A) and can claim a playoff spot on Monday when the two teams play a doubleheader in Athens. The Falcons, who are 1 1/2-games behind Walnut Grove (13-11, 6-3 Region 8-5A), can still claim the No. 3 seed if they sweep the Gladiatos, then sweep two games from Cedar Shoals, and get a Buford sweep of Walnut Grove to end the season.

In Region 7-4A, Blessed Trinity (25-2, 9-0 Region 7-4A), Marist (9-15, 6-3 Region 7-4A), and West Hall (16-7, 6-3 Region 7-4A) all have claimed playoff spots. Chestatee (12-13, 2-10 Region 7-4A) and White County (7-16, 1-8 Region 7-4A) are both still alive for the final spot. The Spartans are still alive for a top two seed and take on No. 1-ranked Blessed Trinity in the final week and will need some help from White County against defending state champion Marist. Chestatee, which has completed its regular season, can get in with a pair of Marist wins over the Warriors. Two White County wins will give the Warrors the final playoff spot, and depending on how West Hall fares against the Titans, the Spartans could claim the No. 2 seed.

In Region 8-4A, Jefferson (17-7, 10-2 Region 8-4A) has clinched a playoff berth and needs one win to claim the region title. The Dragons take on Madison County (14-11, 7-5 Region 8-4A) over the final week while second-place North Oconee (17-7, 8-4 Region 8-4A) takes on last-place Oconee County. Jefferson holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over North Oconee but a Madison sweep of the Dragons combined with a North Oconee sweep of Oconee County would give the Titans the crown and knock Jefferson to third place.

In Region 7-3A, North Hall (18-5, 13-2 Region 7-3A) and Greater Atlanta Christian (17-8, 11-4 Region 7-3A) have clinched the top two spots. The Trojans' magic number to claim their first region title since 2013 is 2 with North Hall taking on Dawson County and the Spartans taking on Lumpkin County this week in a pair of three-game series. Fannin County (16-10, 11-7 Region 7-3A) is locked in as the No. 3 seed after winning its final eight region contests. East Hall (12-12, 7-8 Region 7-3A) and Dawson County (11-14, 7-8 Region 7-3A) are tied and battling for the final spot but the Vkings hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Region 8-3A has completed its region schedule with Jackson County, which won 8 of its last 13 games, claiming the No. 3 seed. Morgan County won the region title and Franklin County finished second. Hart County was fourth.

Region 8-2A also has completed its region schedule with Elbert County taking the No. 1 seed and Social Circle the No. 2 seed. Rabun County claimed the No. 3 spot while Banks County missed out on the playoffs after getting swept by Oglethorpe County, who claimed the fourth spot, in the region finale last week.

Class A Public and Private both use power ratings to determine their 24-team playoff fields. Only Commerce in Class A Public is among the top 24 teams coming into the final week. The Tigers are tied for 13th in the Public ratings going into the final week.

(Check below for the complete schedule of area baseball teams.)

BASEBALL SCHEDULE FOR WEEK OF April 16 — April 21
(First pitch times are 5:55 p.m. unless otherwise noted.)
(Games listed by time and in alphabetical order by visiting team.)

Monday, April 16
Riverside Military at Towns County (DH), 5 p.m.*
Murphy (N.C.) at Fannin County, 5:30 p.m.
Apalachee at Gainesville*
Athens Academy at Commerce*
Dawson County at North Hall*
East Hall at Union County*
Flowery Branch at Clarke Central (DH), 5 p.m.*
Habersham Central at Dacula*
Johnson at Walnut Grove*
Lakeview Academy at Prince Avenue*
Loganville at Buford*
Madison County at Jefferson*

Tuesday, April 17
Blessed Trinity at West Hall*
Lumpkin County at Greater Atlanta Christian*
White County at Marist*

Wednesday, April 18
Riverside Military at Tallulah Falls, 4:30 p.m.
Commerce at East Jackson, 5:30 p.m.
Rabun Gap at Rabun County, 5:30 p.m.
Banks County at Monro Area
Buford at Walnut Grove*
Cedar Shoals at Flowery Branch*
Dacula at Habersham Central*
Gainesville at Apalachee*
Jefferson at Madison County*
Johnson at Loganville*
North Hall at Dawson County*
Union County at East Hall*

Thursday, April 19
Atlanta Jewish at Lakeview Academy, 4:30 p.m.
Rabun County at Franklin (N.C.), 5 p.m.
Callaway at Jackson County
Monroe Area at Banks County

Friday, April 20
Greater Atlanta Christian at Lumpkin County (DH), 5 p.m.*
Lakeview Academy at Towns County (DH), 5 p.m.*
Marist at White County (DH), 5 p.m.*
West Hall at Blessed Trinity (DH), 5 p.m.*
Apalachee at Gainesville*
Dawson County at North Hall*
East Hall at Union County*
Flowery Branch at Cedar Shoals*
Habersham Central at Dacula*
Loganville at Johnson*
Madison County at Jefferson*
Walnut Grove at Buford*
Riverside Military at Commerce*
Walhalla (S.C.) at Banks County, 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 21
Fannin County at Murphy (N.C.), 2 p.m.

* -- Region contest

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