Wednesday September 22nd, 2021 10:10PM

Baseball: Playoff previews: 2nd round offers road challenges for area teams

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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For northeast Georgia-area teams as a whole, the first round of the Georgia High School Association baseball playoffs was anything but kind.

Nine of the 14 area teams went down in the opening round, but not without a fight for many of them. Gainesville, West Hall, Dawson County, and Commerce all forced Game 3s in their respective series but could not come out the other side. Chestatee, Fannin County, Jackson County, Jefferson, and Towns County all were swept out.

However, five teams managed to move on to the second round, which was scheduled to begin on Thursday. Buford and Flowery Branch advanced in Class AAAAA, North Hall moved through in Class AAA, and Banks County and Rabun County pushed into the Sweet 16 in Class AA.

Banks County is the only area team to host a second round game, taking on Toombs County in Class AA. The other four will be on the road.

For the all classifications involved, road teams went 25-87 in the first round (.223 win percentage). However, Rabun County, North Hall, and Flowery Branch were among that group.

But, the early story on the second round of the baseball playoffs already is Mother Nature. With rain forecast for most of the state on Thursday, teams began taking precautions on Monday and moving things around.

Rabun County, which takes on Bacon County in Alma (between Brunswick and the Okefenokee Swamp), moved everything up a day with the first day doubleheader planned for Wednesday beginning at 5 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, will now be on Thursday at 5 p.m. So did Flowey Branch, which travels to Locust Grove. The Falcons will play a doubleheader on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, will by at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Buford, which travels to Wayne County in Class AAAAA, has moved its series to a Friday doubleheader beginning at 4:30 p.m. in Jesup. Game 3, if necessary, will now be Saturday at 2 p.m.

For a look at all of the day's contests involving area teams, simply scroll down. And be sure to check back with AccessWDUN throughout the night for score updates and game stories and video highlights. You can also check for scores and highlights on our Twitter feed: @AccessNGASports


(Games listed in alphabetical order by highest classification and order of visiting team)
(All series are best-of-three with doubleheaders, which were tentatively scheduled for Thursday and Game 3, if necessary, scheduled for Friday.)

(We will update with any new game times if changes are made.)

Region 8-AAAAA, which houses Buford and Flowery Branch, showed indeed just how strong it was with three of the four teams advancing and Walnut Grove, the No. 4 seed, pushing Region 6 champion Decatur to three games and lost by 1-run in the series clincher. ... Regions 4 and 7 also pushed three teams into the Sweet 12. ... Nine of the 10 teams ranked in the final Georgia Dugout poll (Riverwood the lone loser) moved through into the second round. ... Eight of the top 10 pitching teams in AAAAA moved on while just six of the top 10 scoring teams advanced. The top two scoring teams -- Columbia and North Springs --were ousted in the first round.

-- WHEN: Friday 4:30 p.m. (DH); Saturday 2 p.m.
-- WHERE: Jesup
-- BUFORD (19-12): No. 2 seed Region 8-AAAAA; state runner-up in AAAA in 2016; defeated North Springs in three games in the 1st round 1-4, 12-4, 18-8
-- WAYNE COUNTY (23-10): No. 1 seed Region 2-AAAAA; defeated Jones Co. in three games in the 1st round 4-17, 5-1, 5-4
-- NOTABLE: Both teams showed some mettle in the first round rallying from Game 1 losses to advance. ... The Yellow Jackets are 5-2 in 1-run games in 2017 and 10-2 in their last 12 games overall. ... Both teams are middle of the pack in pitching and scoring. Wayne County is 12th in pitching while Buford is uncharacteristically 21st (131, 4.22 rpg). Only Union Grove (138, 4.31 rpg) has allowed more than the Wolves of the teams still left in AAAAA. ... The Wolves broke out the bats in the 1st round. They averaged 10 rpg in the series after scoring just 6.79 per game during the regular season. ... The Yellow Jackets won their 1st round series despite being outscored 22-14 by Jones County. ... Buford Sr. P Frank Bradshaw will need another solid outing. He tossed a 1-hitter in the Game 1 loss but was hurt by spotty defense. Sophomores Ramsey David and Sean Adams both pitched well for Buford in the two wins. ... The Wolves are looking for their fourth consecutive Elite 8 appearance spanning three classifications.
-- NEXT: winner of the Carrollton-Harris County series

-- WHEN: Wednesday 4 p.m. (DH); Thursday 4 p.m.
-- WHERE: Locust Grove
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (18-11): No. 3 seed in Region 8-AAAAA; swept Riverwood in the 1st round, 4-0 and 5-3
-- LOCUST GROVE (23-5): No. 1 seed in Region 4-AAAAA; defending Class AAAA state champion; swept Statesboro in the 1st round, 10-0 and 6-2
-- NOTABLE: This could be a classic pitchers duel the entirety of the series. The Falcons yielded just three runs to a team that had scored the fifth-most runs in AAAAA coming into the playoffs. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are the stingiest team in AAAAA, having allowed just 59 runs on the season (2.10 rpg). The Falcons are tied for sixth in fewest runs allowed (99, 3.41 rpg) ... Branch has scored the fewest runs of any team left in AAAAA (138, 4.75 rpg) ... The Falcons have the longest active win streak in Class AAAAA with seven straight victories. It was their first playoff series win since 2014. However, they have never advanced past the second round so they can make history with a series win over the Wildcats. ... Jr. Preston Felt and Fr. pitchers Andrew Armstrong and Zander Sechrist were outstanding on the mound for Branch and will need to be even better vs. the defending state champs.
-- NEXT: winner of the McIntosh-Arabia Mountain series

Defending AAA state champion Westminster was knocked out by Region 7-AAA champ Greater Atlanta Christian. ... Only seven of the 10 teams ranked in the final Georgia Dugout poll moved through into the second round. ... North Hall knocked off No. 9 Pace Academy on the road in a thrilling 3-game series. ... Morgan County (8-AAA) was the only region champ to fall. ... Regions 1, 2, and 6 all pushed three teams into the Sweet 16.
-- WHEN: Thursday 5 p.m. (DH); Friday 2 p.m.
-- WHERE: Brooklet
-- NORTH HALL (21-11): No. 3 seed Region 7-AAA; defeated No. 9 Pace Academy in three games in the 1st round 3-7, 4-1, 6-5
-- SOUTHEAST BULLOCH (21-7): No. 1 seed Region 3-AAA; swept  Monroe 11-1 and 11-1 in the 1st round
-- NOTABLE: The Yellow Jackets will be a tremendous test for the Trojans. They lead AAA in pitching and scoring despite not being ranked during the season. ... This should be a pitcher’s duel, however. The Yellow Jackets are allowing just 2.08 rpg while the Trojans are 5th, yielding just 2.96 runs a game. ... North Hall busted its slump, winning the final two games to take a first-round series over Pace. The Trojans, after dropping Game 1, had lost 7 of 8 at that point. It’s their first two-game winning streak in nearly a month. ... Taber Mongero had his best outing of the season in the clincher, fanning eight in 6 innings while Corban Meeler recorded his second save of the season. ... North Hall found its offense, scoring 10 runs in the final two games after scoring just 23 total runs in the previous eight games. ... Southeast Bulloch also leads AAA in scoring average at 10.74 runs a game.
-- NEXT: winner of the Ringgold-Appling County series

It’s the only classification to have two No. 4 seeds -- Rabun County and Toombs County -- advance. Rabun County (8-AA) swept South Atlanta (6-AA) while Toombs County (2-AA) swept Laney (4-AA) in a rout. Also, two No. 3 seeds in Banks County (8-AA) and Bacon County (2-AA) advanced. ... Regions 2 and 8 proved their dominance as both swept out Regions  4 and 6 in the first round. Regions 1, 3, 5, and 7 each had two teams advance. ... It’s hard to say how the rest of the tournament will play out in AA. Eight of the top 10 pitching teams and eight of the top 10 scoring teams all moved into the Sweet 16. ... Region 8-AA champ Elbert County leads AA in scoring (275, 887 rpg) while Dodge County (No. 2 seed in 3-AA) leads on the mound allowing just 74 runs (2.58 rpg) on the season.

-- WHEN: Wednesday 5 p.m. (DH); Thursday 5 p.m.
-- WHERE: Alma
-- RABUN COUNTY (10-14): No. 4 seed Region 8-AA; swept Region 6-AA champ South Atlanta 8-2 and 10-0 in the 1st round
-- BACON COUNTY (20-10): No. 3 seed Region 3-AA; swept Harlem 4-2 and 5-4 in the 1st round
-- NOTABLE: The Wildcats are looking for their first Elite 8 appearance since advancing to the semifinals in 2015. The two teams met in the second round in 2015 with Rabun sweeping the series in Tiger. ... Bacon County has been tough at home going 11-2, including winning five straight. ... Rabun County is just 6-7 on the road but has won 3 of their last 4 away from home. ... The key may be the Wildcats pitching, allowing 5.62 rpg while the Raiders are averaging 7.66 rpg on offense. Bacon County is yielding just 4.70 rpg while Rabun County is averaging 6.25 rpg on offense.
-- NEXT: winner of the Heard County-Bleckley County series

-- WHEN: Thursday 5 p.m. (DH); Friday 5 p.m.
-- WHERE: Leopards Field, Homer
-- TOOMBS COUNTY (14-13): No. 4 seed Region 2-AA; swept Region 4 champ Laney 14-3 and 15-0 in the 1st round
-- BANKS COUNTY (15-15): No. 3 seed Region 8-AA; swept Hapeville Charter 18-0 and 16-1 in the 1st round
-- NOTABLE: The Leopards, despite being a No. 3 seed, will get to play host for the second straight round after Toombs County pulled the upset of No. 10 Laney on the road. ... Both teams are near the bottom in both pitching and runs scored of the teams left in the playoffs so it’s a toss-up series that has Game 3 written all over it. ... However, Banks County is 10-6 at home and has won 5 of its last 6 at Leopards Field. The Bulldogs are 7-7 on the road, including last week, and have won five straight away from home.
-- NEXT: winner of the Callaway-Dodge County series

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