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Sunday September 22nd, 2019 2:03AM

PLAYOFF BASEBALL PREVIEW: Small, but stout, contingent of area teams ready for 2nd round

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

More than half of the northeast Georgia area contingent to qualify for the GHSA baseball playoffs, six teams in all, could not make it out of the first round last week, including Class 3A No. 1 Jefferson, which was stunned at home by always-pesky Westminster.

But of the five teams that are left, three have won state titles in their history -- Buford (2015 most recent), North Hall (2017), and Lakeview Academy (2004) -- and the other two, Flowery Branch and Commerce, have had recent runs to the semifinals.

All five, however, will be tested in the second round, which opens on Thursday with doubleheaders in the best-of-three series. Game 3s, if necessary, will be on Friday, weather permitting, of course.

Buford travels to Kell in Class 5A to take on the Longhorns. The Wolves are looking for their second straight trip to the quarterfinals. Kell has not advanced past the second round since 2016.

In Class 4A, Flowery Branch heads to No. 3 Cartersville in what should be a titanic pitching showdown. The Falcons will look for another stellar pitching performance from their lefty combo of Andrew Armstrong and Zander Sechrist, who allowed just two runs in a sweep of traditional power Heritage-Catoosa on the road in the first round. The Hurricanes pitched a pair of shutouts in a sweep of Oconee County.

In Class 3A, a banged up North Hall squad also got three outstanding pitching performances in holding off Coahulla Creek in three games. The Trojans allowed just three runs in the series. Now, they will get another home series at Jody Davis Field as they entertain 2016 state champion Westminster, who took down No. 1 Jefferson in three games on the road in the first round.

In Class A Private, No. 4-seed Lakeview Academy will see its first playoff action in 2019 after receiving a first-round bye last week. The Lions will play host to fellow Region 8-A foe Hebron Christian. Lakeview beat Hebron 7-3 in the two teams' only meeting during the regular season.

And, in Class A Public, No. 9-seed Commerce moved into the second round after pounding Crawford County for 31 runs in a two-game sweep in the first round. The Tigers now will hit the road against No. 8 seed Pelham.

GHSA Baseball playoffs, second round
THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE (May 2)

(All series are best-of-3; doubleheaders opening day)

Class 5A
Buford (Region 8, Seed 2) at Kell (Region 7, Seed 1), DH 4 p.m.

Class 4A
Flowery Branch (R7, S3) at Cartersville (R5, S1), DH 4:30 p.m.

Class 3A
Westminster (R5, S4) at North Hall (R7, S2), DH 5 p.m.

Class A Private (uses Power Rankings to seed)
Hebron Christian (No. 20) at Lakeview Academy (No. 4),  DH 4 p.m.

Class A Public (uses Power Rankings to seed)
Commerce (No. 9) at Pelham (No. 8), DH 4:30 p.m.

FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE (May 3)  
(Game 3, if necessary)

Class 5A
Buford (R8, S2) at Kell (R7, S1), 5:55 p.m.

Class 4A
Flowery Branch (R7, S3) at Cartersville (R5, S1), 5:30 p.m.

Class 3A
Westminster (R5, S4) at North Hall (R7, S2), 6 p.m.

Class A Private (uses Power Rankings to seed)
Hebron Christian (No. 20) at Lakeview Academy (No. 4),  5:30 p.m.

Class A Public (uses Power Rankings to seed)
Commerce (No. 9) at Pelham (No. 8), 4:30 p.m.

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