clearn.png
Tuesday October 26th, 2021 7:31AM

Baseball playoffs: Potent contingent of area teams begin title quests

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Only 13 northeast Georgia area baseball teams advanced into the 2021 state playoffs. But what a potent group it is.

Two teams -- Buford in Class 6A and North Hall in Class 3A -- come in ranked No. 1 in their respective classifications in the final regular-season Georgia Dugout poll. Four others -- Flowery Branch and Jefferson in Class 4A, Cherokee Bluff in Class 3A, and Commerce in Class A Public -- are ranked in the top 10 coming into the playoffs.

But rankings mean little to nothing once the postseason begins. 

“It's nice to be thought of as one of the top teams in the state, but this is baseball at its best and the teams that do the little things right and that has a little luck will be the ones that have the chance to continue at this point,” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said. “I don't think rankings matter at this point. The ‘body of work’ from the season no longer matters in the win-or-go-home rounds.”

The Wolves (29-0) not only are ranked No. 1 in Class 6A but are ranked No. 1 in the nation by both Perfect Game and MaxPreps. That can bring added pressure in a short series where one mistake can be the difference between moving on or going home.

Buford coach Stuart Chester has had the challenging task of trying to keep a plethora of talent sharp while juggling playing time.

“There have been many challenges just like most years...like finding the right combination for the lineup and getting everyone ready for the postseason,” Chester said. “With so many quality arms, getting enough innings for all the pitchers and having them ready for seven innings has been a priority but a good situation to be in.”

In Class 6A, Buford opens against Alexander (18-8) while Habersham Central (11-19) travels to Carrollton (27-3) in the opening round.

The tone for Class 3A could be set in the opening round as Regions 7 and 6, considered perhaps the two deepest regions in the classification, collide right out of the gate. Five of the eight teams have been ranked at some point in the season with six of the eight teams having won 17 or more games.

North Hall (23-4) gets Coahulla Creek (11-14) a team they have encountered before in the playoffs and No. 2 seed Cherokee Bluff (20-9) plays host to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (12-17). A good No. 3 seed White County (19-10) which handed North Hall its only region loss, travels to Sonoraville (17-10) while West Hall (19-10) heads to No. 2-ranked Ringgold (23-6). But the Spartans have been tough dropping a pair of tight one-run games to North Hall last week.

Flow said you can’t rest on successes of the past.

“You don't get 30 games anymore, it’s do or die, which is what makes playoff baseball so great,” Flow said. “At this point, everyone is starting Season 2.  Nothing you did matters anymore.”

Region 8-4A, which houses Branch and Jefferson and Chestatee, could make an argument for the best in Class 4A. Region champ North Oconee is ranked fourth while the Falcons are fifth and the Dragons sixth in the final Dugout poll. They take on Region 5-4A, which does not have a team ranked in the top 10, in the opening round.

No. 2 seed Jefferson (21-8) plays host to Mt. Zion-Jonesboro (17-5) which is 9-2 on the road in 2021. Branch (22-7) is the No. 3 seed and will hit the road against Fayette County (20-11). No. 4 seed Chestatee (16-14) travels to 5-4A champion Hampton (21-6).

All four series will be the classic of which is better: good pitching or good hitting. Hampton (282 runs) and Fayette County (280 runs) lead Class 4A in offense while Branch is third in runs scored (256, 8.82 rpg), North Oconee fourth, and Jefferson 11th (7.86 rpg).

But Branch is second in runs allowed (54, 1.86 rgp), North Oconee is third (56, 1.93 rgp), and Jefferson is seventh (80, 2.75) in Class 4A. Only Hampton (82, 3.03 rpg) is in the top 10 in pitching in Region 5-4A.

“Our pitching has certainly been a bright spot for us this year,” Branch coach Joey Ray said. “Coach Black has done a great job developing our pitchers and getting them ready to compete. We expected to swing it this year, but to have success in the playoffs, pitching and defense are always key. Teams can score in bunches but it’s the timely hits that have the most impact, especially as you move into the later rounds.”

In Class 6A, Buford may be at the top of the hill coming into the playoffs, but the classification houses some of the state’s best traditional powerhouses like Pope, Houston County, and Carrollton, who all have won multiple state titles since 2014. The Wolves also won a state title in 2015 giving Class 6A a potent field.

Chester said balance eventually is a key to advancing.

“Class 6A is loaded with talent,” he said. “But good pitching will most always give you a chance. You do have to score to win, regardless of how good you are on the mound. To win and go deep in the playoffs, you have to get some breaks and be healthy as well.”

All series will be best-of-three at the home of the higher seed. For area teams, Class 4A begins on Wednesday while the rest begin on Thursday. Game 3s, if necessary, will be the following day. However, North Hall will open its Class 3A series on Wednesday with a Game 3, if necessary, on Friday.

(Check below for the complete first-round schedule.)


FIRST ROUND BASEBALL SCHEDULE
(Games listed by date and classification, highest to smallest)
(Games listed by visiting team in alphabetical order)

(Area teams highlighted in bold)

Wednesday, April 28
CLASS 4A
Chestatee (R8, S4) at Hampton (R5, S1) -- (DH), 4 p.m.
Flowery Branch (R8, S3) at Fayette County (R5, S2) -- (DH), 4 p.m.
Mt. Zion-Jonesboro (R5, S3) at Jefferson (R8, S2) -- (DH), 5 p.m.

CLASS 3A
Coahulla Creek (R6, S4) at North Hall (R7, S1) -- (DH), 4:30 p.m.


Thursday, April 29
CLASS 6A
Alexander (R5, S4) at Buford (R8, S1) -- (DH), 4 p.m.
Habersham Central (R8, S4) at Carrollton (R5, S1) -- (DH), 3 p.m.

CLASS 4A

Chestatee (R8, S4) at Hampton (R5, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 4 p.m.
Flowery Branch (R8, S3) at Fayette County (R5, S2) -- Game 3, if necessary, 5:30 p.m.
Mt. Zion-Jonesboro (R5, S3) at Jefferson (R8, S2) -- Game 3, if necessary, 5 p.m.

CLASS 3A
Lakeview-Forth Oglethorpe (R6, S3) at Cherokee Bluff (R7, S2) -- (DH), 4 p.m.
White County (R7, S3) at Sonoraville (R6, S2) -- (DH), 4 p.m.
West Hall (R7, S4) at Ringgold (R6, S1) -- (DH), 5 p.m.

CLASS 2A
Haralson County (R5, S3) at Banks County (R8, S2) -- (DH), 5 p.m.
Rabun County (R8, S4) at Bremen (R5, S1) -- (DH), TBD
Union County (R8, S3) at Callaway (R5, S2) -- (DH), 5 p.m.

CLASS A PUBLIC
Marion County (R5, S4) at Commerce (R8, S1) -- (DH), 5 p.m.


Friday, April 30
CLASS 6A
Alexander (R5, S4) at Buford (R8, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 5:55 p.m.
Habersham Central (R8, S4) at Carrollton (R5, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, TBD

CLASS 3A
Coahulla Creek (R6, S4) at North Hall (R7, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 5 p.m.
Lakeview-Forth Oglethorpe (R6, S3) at Cherokee Bluff (R7, S2) -- Game 3, if necessary, 5 p.m.
White County (R7, S3) at Sonoraville (R6, S2) -- Game 3, if necessary, 4 p.m.
West Hall (R7, S4) at Ringgold (R6, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, TBD

CLASS 2A
Haralson County (R5, S3) at Banks County (R8, S2) -- Game 3, if necessary, 2 p.m.
Rabun County (R8, S4) at Bremen (R5, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 3 p.m.
Union County (R8, S3) at Callaway (R5, S2) -- Game 3, if necessary, 3 p.m.

CLASS A PUBLIC
Marion County (R5, S4) at Commerce (R8, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 1 p.m.

© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Baseball playoffs: Potent contingent of area teams begin title quests
Only 13 northeast Georgia area baseball teams advanced into the 2021 state playoffs. But what a potent group it is...
6:48AM ( 3 seconds ago )
Boys soccer playoffs: GAC steals road win from Warriors
Two breakdowns in an otherwise superb defensive effort cost the White County boys a chance to continue their best season ever in a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss to Greater Atlanta Christian on Tuesday in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs...
10:41PM ( 8 hours ago )
Acuña, Anderson lead Braves shutout of Cubs
Ian Anderson allowed one hit in seven innings, Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a long home run and the Atlanta Braves beat the skidding Chicago Cubs 5-0 on Tuesday night...
10:33PM ( 8 hours ago )
Sports
Girls soccer playoffs: No. 1 Commerce ousted in PKs
Class A Public No. 1-ranked Commerce was stunned in the second round of the state playoffs on Monday at home...
10:21PM ( 1 day ago )
Girls soccer playoffs: White County drops close one to Oconee County
The White County girls soccer team took Oconee County down to the wire in a top-10 playoff battle on the road Monday.
8:45PM ( 1 day ago )
Girls soccer playoffs: Lakeview falls to No. 1 Holy Innocents, 5-3
A penalty kick before the half seemed to be the turning point as the Lakeview Academy girls soccer team fell to No. 1 ranked Holy Innocents, 5-3, on the road Monday.
8:35PM ( 1 day ago )
High School Sports
Baseball: Bears capture No. 2 seed in 7-3A; Chestatee makes playoffs
Cherokee Bluff captured the No. 2 seed in Region 7-3A with a 7-0 win over Gilmer on Friday at home ..
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:25AM ( 3 days ago )
Baseball roundup: North Hall holds off West Hall; Bluff rallies past Gilmer; Branch rolls
West Hall was in it until the end against No. 1 North Hall on Wednesday at Cottrell Field.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:56PM ( 6 days ago )
Baseball: Teams continue to battle for playoff lives
The final week of the baseball regular season is under way and after a big Monday, several teams now find themselves battling for their playoff lives...
8:00AM ( 6 days ago )
Baseball roundup: Commerce blasts Social Circle; Lakeview gets 8-inning win over Mt. Pisgah
Kane Goldman drove in five runs, including a two-run homer, to lead Commerce past Social Circle, 12-2, at home on Tuesday.
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:42PM ( 1 week ago )
Baseball roundup: North Hall captures 7-3A title; Bears continue hot streak
North Hall clinched the Region 7-3A title with a 14-2 win over West Hall on Monday at Spartans Field...
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:19PM ( 1 week ago )