Out of 15 Northeast Georgia-area teams to make the Georgia High School Association, the GIAA, or the GAPPS baseball playoffs, just one team is left standing this week.
Towns County in Class A Division 2 of the GHSA is all that is left in the postseason as several teams suffered upset losses and others had their improbable runs ended last week.
The Indians (22-11) are among seven ranked teams in the final regular season Coaches Box poll in Class A D2 to remain alive. They will face their toughest challenge so far, traveling to No. 4 Emanuel County Institute on Wednesday in one of three quarterfinal matchups in the classification involving two ranked teams.
However, long road trips are nothing new for the Indians. Longtime Indians coach Shannon Floyd has been scheduling early-season road trips into the heart of south Georgia for just such an emergency for several years.
"We schedule like that to one, play games in warmer weather places early on, and two, to play really good teams on the road to help us hopefully get ready for the playoffs," Floyd said. "We've done this before, and the guys know what to expect."
Floyd expects that his group, which is 4-1 in the 2023 playoffs and has given up just 16 total runs (3.33 runs/game), is ready for another road trip, but with bigger stakes. A trio of junior front-line starters in Kade McConnell, Zane Floyd, and Matthew Chastain have been solid. Seldom-used senior Seth Gillis, however, saved the Indians' season in the second round, pitching six innings out of the bullpen, giving up no earned runs, as the offense rallied from a 7-1 deficit to beat Chattahoochee County 8-7 in Game 3 of their series.
"Kade, Zane, and Matthew all have pitched well this season. We feel good about having those three available to go in a three-game series," Floyd said. "But Seth came in against Chattahoochee and gave us a chance to come back.
"We've been playing some really good baseball lately. We're going down there thinking we can definitely win the series. But ECI is one of the best teams we have faced this season. It will be tough."
ECI (26-8) owns the second-most wins in the classification (Charlton County, 30) and has won six straight, including sweeping both of its first two rounds. The Bulldogs outscored Hawkinsville and Lanier County 39-5, allowing just 3.23 runs/game on the season.
Towns County is averaging 7.8 rpg on offense but has improved on that in the playoffs scoring at an 8.8 rpg clip so far. However, ECI is fifth in runs scored in Class A D2 (292), averaging 8.58 RPG, but like the Indians, has improved in the postseason averaging 9.75 rpg through the first two rounds.
BASEBALL PLAYOFFS, quarterfinal round, Wednesday, May 10
Class A Division 2
Towns County (Region 8, Seed 2) at Emanuel County Institute (R3, S1) DH, 3 p.m.
BASEBALL PLAYOFFS, quarterfinal round, Thursday, May 11
Class A Division 2 (Game 3, if necessary)
Towns County (Region 8, Seed 2) at Emanuel County Institute (R3, S1), 3 p.m.