PREVIEW: Area GISA baseball teams begin march to state title today

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

Area GISA state baseball playoff schedule

(Best two-out-of-three series; all games are doubleheaders)

Class AAA


4:30 p.m.

Dominion Christian (Region 1, No. 3) at Deerfield-Windsor (Region 3, No.2)

Southland (Region 3, No. 4) at Loganville Christian (Region 1, No.1).

Class AA

Sherwood Christian (Region 3, No. 4) at Windsor (Region 1, No. 1)

Covenant (Region 1, No. 4) at Terrell Academy (Region 3, No. 1)

Westwood (Region 3, No. 3) at Gatewood (Region 1, No. 2)

Central Fellowship (Region 1, No. 3) at SGA (Region 3, No. 2)

Class A

1 p.m.

Nathaneal Greene (Region 1, No. 3) at Randolph Southern (Region 3, No. 2)

1 p.m.

Thomas Jefferson (Region 1, No. 4) at Crisp Academy (Region 3, No. 1)

ALBANY — Panic? Worry? Second-guessing?

You won’t find any of that on the diamond at Deerfield-Windsor, where the Knights are hoping to turn a tough-luck season into a run at a state title.

DWS opens the GISA Class AAA state tournament at home today at 4:30 p.m. against Dominion Christian, the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAA.

The Knights (13-9) are ready to make a run.

“Our guys know everybody is 0-0, and they know what it takes to win in the playoffs,’’ said DWS coach Rod Murray, whose team made it to the state semifinals last year before losing to eventual state champ Tattnall Square. “I feel good about the playoffs. We know Dominion Christian has a real good club, but we feel good. We played a lot of quality opponents and we lost five games by one run. We feel those games helped us.

“Losing games like that hurts, but you learn so much from them.”

Murray then added: “We’ve had our share of them. We just need to get the two-out hit now and then. It seems like it’s been that kind of year when we just hit the ball at people.’’

Still, Murray and his kids love the idea of starting over, and they feel they have the experience and pitching depth to make a run.

“We used a lot of pitchers this year,’’ Murray said. “And we feel our pitching depth can really help us in the playoffs.’’

Seniors Weston King (5-3 with a 2.10 ERA) and Austin Murphy (3-3 with a 2.10 ERA) have been at the top of the pitching rotation, but freshman left-hander Justin Glover has had his moments on the mound as well as Coleman Butler, who struck out nine against Stratford last week. Will Akins has also pitched for the Knights, and that deep list of pitchers has Murray believing his team has an advantage in the playoffs.

Murray will start King in the opener, and said he will play it by ear and look at matchups after that.

The Knights have plenty of arms, but they can hit and run, too, Deerfield has arguably the best leadoff hitter in all of GISA in Kh’Ron McClain, an All-State football and track athlete who also played on DWS’ basketball team.

McClain is hitting .490 and he has stolen 20 bases. and gives Deerfield a catalyst at the top of the lineup, and Harris Webb, who has already accepted a deal to become a preferred walk-on at the University of Georgia, can handle a bat as well as anyone in this league.

Murray likes to call Webb “the thermostat” because, “he sets the temperature for the team.’’

Webb, who is a vacuum at shortstop, is batting .425 and he has driven in 15 runs and centerfielder Davis Hines is hitting .426 with a homer and 17 RBI.

But Deerfield’s biggest strength is in its senior class. Seven seniors are back from last year’s state semifinalist team, including King, Murphy, McClain, Webb and Hines, and there are nine seniors on the roster.

That’s more than enough to have Murray believing his kids can flip the season around and make a run.

“We have a lot of senior leadership that we’re leaning on,’’ Murray said. “They have been here four years and been part of teams that have made some good runs. We were so close last year. We are going to do everything we can to start another run. We have a lot of experience and we’re going to it. I always say to get over the hump you have to get to the hump.’’

That run starts today — and after a tough season, it begins with a dugout full of confidence.

“Our kids expect good things to happen,’’ Murray said. “They’re a humble group, but they expect good things to happen.’’

Also in Class AAA, Southland, which is the No. 4 seed from Region 3-AAA, opens the playoffs on the road today against Loganville Christian, the top seed from Region 1-AAA.

In Class A, Crisp Academy, which won the state title two years ago and finished second last year — losing a memorable three-game series against Westwood — is the No. 1 seed from Region 1-A and will be at home today against Thomas Jefferson in a doubleheader that begins at 1 p.m.

In Class AA Westwood, which moved up from Class A two years ago, will be on the road at Gatewood. Sherwood Christian will be on the road in the AA playoffs, facing Windsor, which is the top-seed from Region 1-AA, and Terrell Academy, which is the top-seed from Region 3-AA, will host Covenant in the first round in Dawson today.

Southwest Georgia Academy, which was second in the region 3-AA race behind Terrell, will also be at home today, opening against Central Fellowship.