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GHSA/GISA STATE BASEBALL PLAYOFF CAPSULES: Breaking down the first round

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

GHSA

Class A

Region 3, No. 3 Metter (12-4) at Region 1, No. 2 Baconton Charter (15-6)

WHEN: 2 p.m. today, Game 1 of DH, followed by Game 2; Game 3, Saturday at 11 a.m., if necessary.

WHERE: Baconton.

ANALYSIS: Metter started out the season hot and won its first six games, then cooled off down the stretch and went 6-4 the rest of the way. Of course, the Tigers come from what Baconton coach Bubber Birdsong calls "the best region in the state," that features Class A No. 1-ranked Calvary Day. Metter also has one heck of an ace, UGA signee Pete Nagel, who is 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and can almost hit 90 mph on his fastball. Baconton, which has only two seniors on an inexperienced roster of just 12 players, will counter with its ace, James Davis, who has a 2.75 ERA, is 6-2 and has recorded 75 strikeouts. He's also been deadly at the plate, posting a .438 batting average with 32 runs scored, 31 RBI, four HRs, four 2Bs and four 3Bs. Brock Pinson leads Baconton with a .540 batting average with 34 hits, including 30 runs scored and 26 RBI, eight 2Bs and one 3B. Pinson has also struck out only once all season. The Blazers boast sluggers like Tony Holland (.398), Tyler Purvis (.385), Zack Jones (.400) and William Sullivan (.391).

THEY SAID IT: "It's going to be a little cat-and-mouse with how we prepare for Nagel and I'm not sure the home-field advantage against him is that important. It's not going to make a whole lot of difference where the game is held because he throws 88 mph wherever he's at. Eighty-eight miles per hour in Metter is 88 mph in Baconton."

-- Bubber Birdsong, Baconton Charter head baseball coach on facing Metter ace and UGA signee Pete Nagel.

IF WIN: Baconton will face winner of Region 4, No. 1 Hawkinsville and Region 2, No. 4 Charlton County on Wednesday.

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Region 1, No. 3 Miller County (12-13) at Region 3, No. 2

Treutlen (22-4)

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. today, Game 1 of DH; Game 3, if necessary, on Saturday at 11 a.m.

WHERE: Soperton.

ANALYSIS: Treutlen should be the No. 1 seed in this bracket after going 14-0 in region, only to lose in the region finals to Calvary Day and settle for the No. 2 seed. And this team can put up the runs. After starting the season 1-2, the Vikings ran off 21 wins in a row -- including 14 of those victories coming by run-rule in six innings or less -- but then lost their last two games of the regular season. Miller, meanwhile, has struggled mightily at times this season and hasn't run off more than three wins in a row -- but the Pirates also haven't lost more than two in a row, meaning when they play badly, it's not for long and whatever issue there is on the team is usually corrected quickly. Miller changed head coaches midseason as Chris Buckhalter took over for Scott Warren on March 22, going 7-6 the rest of the way. Buckhalter came from Cairo and took over a team mired in adversity as four players left the program -- two who quit, one who transferred and one who was dismissed for disciplinary reasons. But Buckhalter still had ace and leading slugger Brian Lovering, who has a .418 batting average and three home runs, as well as Adrian Hayes and Mikel Price, who are tied for the team-high with four homers each. Caleb Cunningham, the Pirates quarterback during football season, is the best fielder for Miller and has the fewest number of errors on the season. Michael Cowart, a freshman, will pitch Game 1, followed by Lovering in Game 2.

THEY SAID IT: "We've had a lot of adversity, but these kids have fought through it, rose to the occasion, showed mental toughness and I couldn't be more proud of them to get to this point in the season. Treulten is a lot like us in that they have a lot of good athletes and whoever throws more strikes and plays defense the best, is gonna win. But I really feel like if we can win the first game, we'll win the second and take the series."

-- Chris Buckhalter, Miller County head baseball coach, on the Pirates' up-and-down season and first-round matchup in state

IF WIN: Miller County will face the winner of Region 2, No. 1 Bacon County vs. Region 4, No. 4 Taylor County on Wednesday.

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Region 1, No. 4 Pelham (9-13) at Region 3, No. 1 Calvary Day (22-3)

WHEN: 4 p.m. today, Game 1 of DH, followed immediately by Game 2. Game 3, if necessary, will be played Saturday at 1 p.m.

WHERE: Savannah.

ANALYSIS: The Hornets are just one of the few teams that made the playoffs this year with a record four games or more below .500 -- and it won't get any easier from here. Calvary Day is arguably the best Class A program is the state, having won 19 in a row coming into today's first-round meeting with the Hornets. The Cavaliers have also outscored opponents 237-27 during that 19-game winning streak, including a stunning seven shutouts. Pelham, meanwhile, enters the series having won two in a row and six of its last eight, including a 10-7 win against local power Westover, 10-7, in the Hornets' season finale.

IF WIN: Pelham will face the winner of Region 2, No. 1 Lanier vs. Region 4, No. 3 Schley County on Wednesday.

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Class AAA

Region 1, No. 3 Westover (14-6) at Region 3, No. 2 Harlem (14-11)

WHEN: 4 p.m. today, Game 1 of DH. Game 3, if necessary, on Saturday at 1 p.m.

WHERE: Harlem.

ANALYSIS: The Bulldogs started out the season looking terrible, going 1-6 before winning nine of their next 11. They limped down the stretch into today's state playoff opener, going 4-3, including a loss in the region championship game to Thomson. Westover, however, has been the opposite. The Patriots have surged down the stretch and went from fighting for the fourth spot in the state playoffs to a No. 3 seed, thanks in large part to ace and leading hitter Robert Daniel. Daniel, just a junior, is being recruited by a number of Division I programs around the country and with good reason: He has struck out 97 batters this year, has a 1.88 ERA and has maintained a batting average over .400 all season. Between Daniel and Westover's other two leading hitters, Ricardo Pugh and Shannon Brown -- who has nine RBI in Westover's last two games -- the Patriots will live and die by their bats in this series, especially since the Patriots' scouting report says that Harlem is a super-sound defensive team that doesn't make a lot of mistakes.

"It's going to depend on our bats -- but I'll tell you what, our kids think we can win this series. If we can put runs on the board early and often like we have in our last few games of the regular season, we've got a good shot. If our bats go cold, we're in trouble"

-- Kevin Fretwell, Westover head baseball coach on today's first-round matchup with Harlem

IF WIN: Westover will play winner of Region 4, No. 4 Jackson vs. Region 2, No. 1 Mary Persons.

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Region 1, No. 4 Worth County (15-11) at Region 3, No. 1 Thomson (22-2)

WHEN: 4 p.m. today, Game 1 of DH; Game 3, if necessary, will be played Saturday at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Thomson.

ANALYSIS: The Rams have their hands full -- and then some -- in this first-round matchup. Thomson, which reached the Final Four a year ago, is one of the best teams in the state, regardless of classification, and has lost only two games -- both to larger Class AAAA programs. The Bulldogs enter today's matchup on a 16-game winning streak and have outscored opponents during that stretch a staggering 177-34. The Bulldogs have four pitchers who can throw in the upper 80s, but Worth will counter with its ace, Corey Odum in Game 1, then Will Peacock in Game 2. Worth coach Will Smith lauded the arms of both guys in breaking down this matchup, but feels Odum gives the Rams the best chance based on his play down the stretch. Ryan Hicox, Worth's best infielder -- having committed just one error all season -- will be the No. 3 pitcher in Game 3, if it's necessary. But the Rams' chances to win may hinge on the bat of Matt Weaver, who comes into the series with a team-high .429 batting average and nine HRs.

THEY SAID IT: "They're a quality program -- that's quite evident. They have eight seniors and eight juniors, and they're coming off a year where they made the Final Four and only graduated one player. It's going to be a challenge, but if we can play solid defense and keep the ball down in the strike zone and not give them an extra out, we've got a chance (to pull the upset)."

-- Worth County head baseball coach Will Smith on facing No. 1 seed Thomson in the first round

IF WIN: Worth will face winner of Region 2, No. 2 Howard vs. Region 4, No. 3 Eastside on Wednesday.

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GISA

Class A

Region 3, No. 2 Westwood (14-4) gets BYE in first round

WILL FACE: Region 1, No. 1 Thomas Jefferson (10-2) on the road in second round May 13-14 at 3:30 p.m. on May 13 in Game 1, followed by Game 2 at 11 a.m. on May 14 and the "if game" immediately after, if necessary. T.J. also received first-round bye.

ANALYSIS: Both teams are in the same boat in that they will be inactive for almost three weeks between the end of the regular season and when they play their first game in the Class A State Tournament. Westwood did manage a scrimmage against Randolph Southern this week, but otherwise is just practicing hard every day trying to prepare. The most interesting thing about this matchup is the budding rivalry between these two schools that are separated by almost four hours. Thomas Jefferson beat Westwood's boys basketball team, which is also coached by the Wildcats' baseball coach Al Timmerman, in four overtimes in the Final Four of the state tournament, while the boys track team edged T.J. out by just a few points for the Class A state title last week in Albany.

THEY SAID IT: "That's just the way it worked out this year because some of the teams in our class didn't even have four teams to send to the playoffs, so us and Thomas Jefferson are in the same boat as far as being inactive for the first week. I don't really like it and I imagine they don't either, but it's an equal playing field nonetheless. It's something that's never happened as long as I've been the coach here, but it's the way the draw came out, and we'll just practice hard these next two weeks and try and stay focused."

-- Al Timmerman, Westwood head baseball coach.

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Region 3, No. 4 Randolph Southern (4-12) at Region 4, No. 1 Solid Rock

WHEN: 1 p.m. today, Game 1 of DH, followed immediately by Game 2; Game 3, if necessary, on Saturday at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Riverdale.

ANALYSIS: This is matchup of two programs that haven't had great seasons. The Patriots have won only four games this year, but Solid Rock -- one of just two teams in Region 4 -- has only played five TOTAL games, and only won the top seed because of a coin flip with Oak Mountain. First-year Randolph Southern coach Tommy Owen said he hasn't heard much about Solid Rock because he can't find anyone who's played them, but he knows one thing to be true about this series if the Patriots hope to win it: Randolph has to cut down on its errors, which have killed the Pats in close games this year. But offense won't be a problem because the Patriots can swing the bats, led by George Wallace signee Jon Floyd (.490 batting average, with 21 RBI, six 2Bs and two 3Bs), while ace Daylon Blanton will get the ball in Game 1, followed by Grant Kimbrel in Game 2.

THEY SAID IT: "Offensively, I don't worry about us scoring, but their confidence has been shaken this season with all the mistakes we've had on defense. If we can cut those down, I think this team -- four wins and all -- can play with anybody in the state. The only thing I know about Solid Rock is that they're not a very strong team ... but then again, we haven't been too strong ourselves at times this year."

-- Randolph Southern head baseball coach Tommy Owen on facing No. 1 seed Solid Rock in the first round

IF WIN: Randolph will face the winner of Region 2, No. 2 David Emanuel vs. Region 1, No. 3 John Hancock on May 13-14.

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Class AA

Region 4, No. 4 Harvester's Christian (7-9) at Region 3, No. 1 SGA (14-5)

WHEN: 4 p.m. today, Game 1. Game 2 on Saturday at 11 a.m., immediately followed by Game 3, if necessary.

WHERE: Damascus.

ANALYSIS: Harvester starts six seniors, led by their injured ace who tops 83 mph and recently returned. He will likely pitch in this series, probably today in Game 1. SGA counters with an ace of its own, Dillon Driver, who is 8-2 with a 2.39 ERA and one no-hitter under his belt this year. Driver will go in Game 2, while Carson Ray -- who is 5-0 with a 2.65 ERA -- will pitch in Game 1. Driver and Ray can also get it done at the plate as Driver is hitting .400 with 16 RBI in the No. 3 spot, while Ray hits at the five-hole and has a .376 batting average with 23 RBI. Of course, SGA's first five hitters in its lineup have done most of their damage this year, starting with leadoff man and multi-sport star Taylor Tabb batting .368 with a team-high three HRs and 24 stolen bases, followed by Kam Whitaker (.370) and Van Harrell (.373, 23 RBI).

THEY SAID IT: "They do have a losing record -- but that's what scares me. If I was their coach, I would tell my kids the pressure is on us, not them, and to come out and play like you have nothing to lose. We're the favorites. We're expected to win. And we just have to go out and take care of buisness."

IF WIN: SGA will face the winner of Region 1, No. 2 Gatewood vs. Region 3, No. 2 Curtis Baptist on May 13-14.

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Region 3, No. 4 Terrell Academy (7-13) at Region 4, No. 1 Christian Heritage (9-1)

WHEN: 4 p.m. today, Game 1, followed by Game 2. Game 3, if necessary, on Saturday.

WHERE: Dalton.

ANALYSIS: The Eagles have their work cut out for them against a team that started the season 8-0 before its first loss. But coach Ashley Walker has been to the Final Four and the title game in his short time in Dawson, and if there's one coach who gets his team ready for this type of opponent, it's Walker.

IF WIN: Terrell Academy will face the winner of Region 2, No. 2 Edmund Burke vs. Region 1, No. 3 Windsor on May 13-14.

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Class AAA

Region 4, No. 3 Bulloch (10-7) at Region 3, No. 2 Deerfield (14-7)

WHEN: 5 p.m. today, Game 1. Game 2 on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., immediately followed by Game 3, if necessary.

WHERE: Albany.

ANALYSIS: Bulloch has two solid pitchers, both right-handers, and DWS coach Rob Murray's scouting report says they hit their spots -- and hit them well. But Deerfield doesn't have just two great pitchers, they have three: Chris Moates, the Game 1 starter today, and Banks Kinslow and Rhett Cooper. The Knights will wait to see how Game 1 plays out to decide who pitches Game 2, but there's little doubt Moates can get the job done in Game 1 -- both on the mound and at the plate. He's 5-3 as a starter with a 2.30 ERA, and he's batting a staggering .612 with seven HRs on the season and more than 30 RBI. Kinslow (.309 batting average) and Cooper (.480) will also be key at the plate for DWS, while Michael Laslie (.420) has been tearing the cover off the ball lately. Deerfield gets back senior star Davis Moore today after a hamstring injury that's kept him out for more than a month, although sophomore Sam Shellhaas (.260) has done a great job filling in and Murray will likely find a spot for his hot bat in this series.

THEY SAID IT: "We've had a tough season in one respect: Five of our six losses have been by one run, and a sixth one by two runs, so we've been on the wrong side of the stick when it comes to close ball games. But my kids are mature -- we have seven seniors -- and they know that's how baseball goes sometimes. We just hope that we can send the seniors who've been here and helped build this program off with a great state tournament, and it starts (today)."

-- Rod Murray, DWS head baseball coach on the first round of state today

IF WIN: Deerfield will face the winner of Region 1, No. 1 Dominion Christian vs. Region 2, No. 4 Arlington on May 13-14.

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Region 3, No. 4 Southland (9-11) at Region 4, No. 1 John Milledge (14-4)

WHEN: 4 p.m. today, Game 1. Game 2 on Saturday at 11 a.m., immediately followed by Game 3, if necessary.

WHERE: Milledgeville.

ANALYSIS: The Raiders have been streaky this season, both on the winning and losing side. They put together a four-game winning streak in the middle of the season that includes a big win against GISA Class A state runner-up Crisp Academy and against region foe Tiftarea, but they enter the state tournament having lost three in a row. The exact opposite is true of John Milledge, which enters today's series on a three-game win streak and has outscored its oppoents by a combined 24-6.

IF WIN: Southland will face the winner of Region 2, No. 2 Stratford vs. Region 1, No. 3 Mount Presbyterian on May 13-14.

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-- Capsules compiled by Danny Aller/danny.Aller@albanyherald.com