Coaches love using cliches about as much as they like eating sunflower seeds and drinking Gatorade. So it’s only fitting when they say they want to be playing their best baseball this time of the year, they truly mean it.
Five Southwest Georgia private school teams open play in the first round of the GISA state tournament today. A sixth team — Crisp Academy — drew a first-round bye and automatically advances to the state quarterfinals.
Deerfield-Windsor, which finished as the third seed from Region 3-AAA, travels to Milledgeville to meet John Milledge in its first-round series. The first game of the doubleheader begins at 1:30 p.m. with the second game to follow.
Region 3-AAA No. 2 seed Southland will play host to Bulloch Academy. The two teams will play one game today at 5 p.m., with Game 2 to begin at noon on Saturday.
In Class AA, LaGrange will visit No. 1 seed Westwood. The two will begin their series at 5 p.m. with just one game. Game 2 will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
No. 2 seed Terrell Academy will play host to Griffin Christian with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. today, while No. 4 Southwest Georgia Academy will travel to Monticello to tackle Piedmont Academy in a 1:30 p.m. doubleheader.
Deerfield coach Rod Murray liked what he saw on Monday when the Knights defeated Brookwood 6-1 to earn the region’s No. 3 seed. He hopes the Knights can continue their momentum today.
“We have been trying so hard that we have been pressing a little bit, so that was a breath of fresh air for us to get some timely hits and get out of here with a win,” Murray said after Monday’s victory. “Yeah, this will get us some momentum going (into the playoffs).”
Today will be one of the few times the Knights have opened the postseason on the road.
Terrell Academy played four region games in a row last week, winning three, and finished as the co-Region 3-AA champion with Westwood. The Eagles earned the No. 2 seed when Westwood won the coin flip.
But coach Ashley Walker said his team appears to be peaking at the right time, something he’s proud to see.
“I don’t want to jinx us, but we seem to be hitting our stride,” Walker said. “We’re where we need to be.”
The Eagles defeated Sherwood Christian twice and Westwood once during their winning streak, then they got some help to finish as co-champions when Valwood topped the Wildcats. But Walker said the postseason means a new season and a fresh start.
“We’ve been pitching pretty well and hitting better than we have,” he said. “And we’ve been playing pretty good defense … all of it coming together at the right time.”
Westwood coach Robby Bowles faces a different challenge than most of the other Southwest Georgia private schools. His Wildcats entertain a LaGrange team that finished the season with a 2-13 record.
“It can be tough to keep them focused,” Bowles said. “Everybody looks at the record and doesn’t think they’re a decent team. We’ve got to get our players to believe this team is as good as everybody else we have played.”
Like Deerfield, Southwest Georgia will travel some four hours north for its first round series. The Warriors will meet Region 4-AA champion Piedmont Academy.
Bowles is grateful his team won’t have to travel. The Wildcats will be at home as long as they continue to win.
“It’s always nice to be at home,” he said.