It has been an important week for area baseball as several teams have clinched playoff berths or region titles. At least one more region crown and several other playoff spots can be claimed on Friday as a slew of key games is on tap.
Buford claimed the Region 8-6A crown as the No. 1-ranked Wolves (27-0, 17-0 Region 8-6A) took the first two games of their showdown series with No. 3 Winder-Barrow (19-4, 12-2 Region 8-6A). They close out the series today in Winder. Habersham Central (9-17, 7-7 Region 8-6A) is one win or Dacula loss from clinching a playoff spot. They can do that with a win over Shiloh on Friday. The Raiders are still in line for a third-place finish as they will have Lanier (10-15, 8-6 Region 8-6A) next week in a series to close out the regular season.
In Region 7-3A, the four playoff teams have been established -- North Hall, West Hall, White County, Cherokee Bluff -- but the only clear position is that Class 3A No. 2 North Hall (20-4, 14-1 Region 7-3A) has clinched no worse than second place. The Trojans are off until closing out the regular season next week against second-place West Hall (18-7, 11-4 Region 7-3A) beginning on Monday in Oakwood. The Spartans can still win the region with a sweep of the Trojans while North Hall needs just one win to clinch the region title.
But both White County (17-8, 12-5 Region 7-3A) and Cherokee Bluff (16-9, 8-6 Region 7-3A) as well as the Spartans are in the running to finish second. The Warriors and Bears finish a huge series on Friday in Cleveland with the winner taking the head-to-head series in case of a tie in the standings.
Region 8-4A is very wide open. Class 4A No. 7 North Oconee (21-4, 12-2 Region 8-4A) and No. 6 Jefferson (18-8, 12-3 Region 8-4A) both have clinched playoff spots while No. 5 Flowery Branch (18-7, 9-5 Region 8-4A), Madison County (10-16, 8-6 Region 8-4A), and Chestatee (16-11, 8-7 Region 8-4A) all are battling for playoff spots. North Oconee, Jefferson, Branch all can still win the region title.
North Oconee, however, can clinch a top two spot with a win over East Hall (3-19, 3-11 Region 8-4A) on Friday. Madison County and Branch close out a big series on Friday at the Hog Mountain Sports Complex while Chestatee is off until opening a huge series with the Falcons on Monday.
And in Region 8-2A, all four playoff spots will be decided on Friday. Class 2A No. 8-ranked Banks County (17-7, 9-1 Region 8-2A) travels to No. 6 Elbert County (21-5, 9-1 Region 8-2A) for a doubleheader. The Leopards need a sweep to clinch the title while the Blue Devils need just one win to clinch. While in Blairsville, Union County (11-14, 4-6 Region 8-2A) plays host to rival Rabun County (10-9, 4-6 Region 8-2A) in a doubleheader. The Panthers need one win to claim the No. 3 seed while the Wildcats will need a sweep to take the third spot.
(Check below for Friday's and Saturday's schedules.)
(Rankings taken from April 10 Georgia Dugout polls)
AREA BASEBALL SCHEDULE FOR Friday, April 16
(Games listed by visiting team in alphabetical order)
(Area teams highlighted in bold)
(Games begin at 5:55 p.m., unless otherwise noted)
Banks County at Elbert County (DH), 5 p.m.*
Buford at Winder-Barrow*
Cherokee Bluff at White County*
Gilmer at Lumpkin County*
Madison County at Flowery Branch*
North Oconee at East Hall*
Notre Dame Academy at Riverside Military Academy, 7 p.m.
Rabun County at Union County (DH), 5 p.m.*
Shiloh at Habersham Central*
South Forsyth at Gainesville, 6:15 p.m.*
West Hall at Lakeview Academy, 5:30 p.m.*
AREA BASEBALL SCHEDULE FOR Saturday, April 17
Commerce at Lake Oconee (DH), 1 p.m.*
(* -- denotes region contest)