The powerhouse programs in northeast Georgia did not disappoint in the first round of the Georgia High School Association baseball playoffs.
Unfortunately, the entire second round baseball schedule for area teams on Tuesday has officially been postponed until Wednesday due to heavy rains in the area.
(Check below for the entire updated second round schedule involving northeast Georgia teams.)
No. 1-ranked teams Buford (Class 6A) and North Hall (Class 3A) swept into the second round behind dominant pitching performances. Ranked teams Flowery Branch and Jefferson (Class 4A), Cherokee Bluff (Class 3A), and Commerce (Class A Public) also got impressive sweeps in the opening round.
Region 8-4A sent three teams, including North Oconee, and Region 7-3A had two teams advance, though White County lost in a deciding Game 3 in its first round battle. The tone turns far more serious in the second round as some titanic matchups between top 10 and even top five teams materialized.
North Hall plays host to Hart County in Class 3A. The Trojans were ranked at the top of the heap in the final Georgia Dugout poll but the Bulldogs spent a considerable chunk of the season ranked No. 1 as well before a late-season slump dropped them to third in Region 8-3A..
In Class 4A, No. 5 Flowery Branch heads to No. 9 Cedartown. Jefferson, ranked sixth, travels to No. 1 Marist in one of the biggest series in any classification in the state in the second round. The Dragons (23-8) dropped a tough 2-1 decision to the War Eagles (25-8) during the regular season. Both teams come in in the top 10 in runs scored and in fewest runs allowed in Class 4A.
Jefferson's Tommy Knight said the experience his group as acrued since that early-season showdown gives them more than a puncher's chance to advance.
"We've improved just by having more experience on the field," Knight said. "If you think about it, all our guys lost almost an entire year last year so they hadn't really played a whole lot together. So the more we play together the better we've played.
"The key to this series is going to be pretty much like it always is: pitching. Both teams can swing the bat but whoever pitches better will have a chance to win the series."
In Class 3A, No. 9 Cherokee Bluff, fresh off its first-ever playoff series win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, will trek just down I-85 to old region foe and No. 4 Greater Atlanta Christian. GAC leads Class 3A in runs scored (326, 10.5 rpg) while Bluff sits eighth in runs allowed, giving up just 2.9 rpg on the season. Something will have to give.
Bears coach Jeremy Kemp is no stranger to the playoffs after guiding Gainesville to several semifinals and one state championship series. But this is new ground for his fledgling program.
"I am super proud of these young men and how hard they have worked," Kemp said. "This is a huge step for us as a program. We're very thankful for everyone that has played a part in what we are building down here."
The Spartans (23-8) will offer another tough challenge. The two teams last played in 2019 as part of Region 7-3A. The Bears (22-9) took one game in that three-game series and come into this one riding a seven-game win streak. Kemp knows there will be little margin for error at this stage.
"We will have to play with very minimal mistakes against a team like GAC," he said. "But we're super excited about this opportunity. We feel good about how we are playing and just hope it continues."
SECOND 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)
Tuesday, May 4
Hart County at North Hall (R7, S1) -- (postponed to Wednesday)
CLASS A PUBLIC
Bowden (R6, S2) at Commerce (R8, S1) -- (postponed to Wednesday)
Wednesday, May 4
Pope (R6, S2) at Buford (R8, S1) -- (DH), 4 p.m.
Flowery Branch (R8, S3) at Cedartown (R7, S1) -- (DH), 4 p.m. -- (moved from Monday)
Jefferson (R8, S2) at Marist (R6, S1) -- (DH), 4:30 p.m. -- (moved from Monday)
Cherokee Bluff (R7, S2) at Greater Atlanta Christian (R5, S1) -- (DH), 4 p.m. -- (moved from Monday)
Hart County at North Hall (R7, S1) -- (DH), 5 p.m. -- (moved from Tuesday)
CLASS A PUBLIC
Bowden (R6, S2) at Commerce (R8, S1) -- (DH), 1 p.m. -- (moved from Tuesday)
Thursday, May 5
Pope (R6, S2) at Buford (R8, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 5:55 p.m.
Flowery Branch (R8, S3) at Cedartown (R7, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 6 p.m. -- (moved from Wednesday)
Jefferson (R8, S2) at Marist (R6, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 5:30 p.m. -- (moved from Wednesday)
Cherokee Bluff (R7, S2) at Greater Atlanta Christian (R5, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 5:30 p.m. -- (moved from Wednesday)
Hart County at North Hall (R7, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 4 p.m. -- (moved from Tuesday)
CLASS A PUBLIC
Bowden (R6, S2) at Commerce (R8, S1) -- Game 3, if necessary, 1 p.m.