PREVIEW: Southland OK with underdog role vs. Tattnall

Tattnall Square hosts Terrell Academy in Final 4

MACON — Jon Adkins knows all about Tattnall Square’s reputation.

Southland Academy’s senior has seen the state championship signs and is familiar with all the prominence and prestige that comes along with them.

Adkins and his Raider teammates are heavy underdogs in today’s GISA Class AAA Final 4 series against the two-time defending state champion Trojans — but he’s just fine flying under the radar.

It’s how he plans to “shock the world.”

“A lot of people have been surprised that we have been winning,” Adkins said. “I remember when we beat Brookwood for our first region win and went to 1-0 in the region. People were like, ‘Wow, Southland is winning? Southland beat a region opponent?’ We were kind of shocking people. I think we can shock a few more people.

“I think we will shock the world and show the state what we can do.”

Tattnall Square is playing its final season before moving to GHSA, and the Trojans haven’t lost a playoff game since Deerfield-Windsor swept them in the Final 4 in 2011. The Trojans have won four of the last six Class AAA championships and have played in the Final 4 in every postseason since 2008.

By contrast, Southland is in the state semifinals for the first time since 2007 — but all of that history doesn’t matter, Adkins says.

“We are going to send them to the GHSA with a loss, and we are going to be playing either Stratford or Tiftarea next week in state,” Adkins said.

The Raiders are coming into today’s series with plenty of confidence but none of the pressure, which is what Southland coach John Brady believes gives his players an advantage.

“We understand that people aren’t giving us much of a chance to win this series, but that’s how we like it,” he said. “The way we look at it is that the pressure is on them. They are the ones trying to win three in a row. They are the ones trying to leave the league on a high note. Our guys seem relaxed.”

If the Raiders are going to shock the world, Brady thinks they will have to do so with their pitching. The trio of Geoffrey McDonald, Reed Dillard and Brandon Looney have thrown every inning of Southland’s five postseason games and are who the Raiders will be leaning on today.

“If we pitch well, we can win. Coach has been telling us that all year,” Dillard said.

McDonald, a left-hander who leads the team in strikeouts and relies on his velocity, threw Game 1 against Bulloch Academy and Loganville Christian. Dillard, a right-hander who Brady calls a “strike zone guy,” relies on location more so than speed and pitches to contact, while right-hander Looney shows hitters an uncharacteristic delivery and is somewhere between McDonald and Dillard with both his movement and speed.

Brady believes it’s the perfect 1-2-3 punch.

“They attack guys differently but complement each other well,” Brady said. “We have three guys who throw the ball over the plate, and that’s a good luxury to have.”

Dillard has also been swinging the bat well lately, as has Hunter Weldon, Looney and Adkins — who is hitting .500 in the postseason.

“This would make our season to beat Tattnall and be in the championship for the first time since 2006,” Dillard said.

It has been an amazing ride to the Final 4 for the Raiders, who have an entire community behind them.

“We have people coming up to us all over town — Walmart, church — and they will say, ‘Congrats, keep up the good work,’ ” Adkins said. “We are having a good time with it.”

A couple more wins would make it even better.

“We think we have a good team, and if we play the way we are capable of playing we think we have a good shot to go up there and win,” Brady said. “We have had a proud baseball history at Southland, but it’s been a little while. This is a fun time right now for the guys.”