Valdosta Daily Times

May 3, 2013

Local area teams head into state baseball playoffs

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Four local area baseball teams will being their quests towards state championships today, with the start of the state baseball playoffs.

All teams will play a doubleheader today with the ‘If’ games being played the following day. All first round matchups are best two-out-of-three series.

Lowndes will host Hillgrove in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, Berrien will host Putnam County in the Class AA state playoffs, Cook will visit Lamar County and Clinch County will host Treutlen in the Class A playoffs.

Rain could be a major factor in the first round. Heavy rain is projected to soak the South Georgia area, which could force the doubleheader games to Saturday and the “If” games to Monday. The Georgia High School Association prohibits teams from playing on Sunday.

The Class A-AAAAAA state playoffs begin this weekend, with the second round games being held May 8-9. The Class A semifinals will be held May 13-14 and the state championship games being held May 18-20. The Class AA-AAAAAA quarterfinals will be held May 14-15, semifinals May 20-21 and the state championship series being held May 25-27.  

Here is a breakdown of the local playoff series set to begin today:

Hillgrove (14-12, 11-5 in Region 4) at Lowndes (17-8, 10-2 in Region 1)

When: Today; Doubleheader begins 4 p.m.; “If” game Saturday

Where: Noel George Field, Lowndes High

Outlook: Hillgrove was the No. 4 seed from Region 4, which features the likes of McEachern, Marietta and Harrison. The Hawks’ powerful pitcher is Chase Adkins, who threw a no-hitter against Kennesaw Mountain earlier this season. Hillgrove has lost two straight games entering this weekend, having lost to Harrison 9-6 and 10-5 in their final two regular season games.

Lowndes won Region 1, but hasn’t played in a week. The Vikings have won three of their last four games.

Local player to watch: Josh Day, catcher. Day leads Lowndes with a .382 average, an on-base percentage of .494 and has a team-high three home runs and 27 runs batted in. Day is committed to Georgia and is currently receiving other offers.

Coach Danny Redshaw’s thoughts: “They are not the typical four-seed. It is Cobb County baseball. They lost in the finals two years ago to Parkview. They got knocked out in the quarterfinals last year to Parkview, which won state. That tells you all you need to know about them. They are well coached. I am sitting here looking at the scouting report. They are pretty solid. They have good team speed, great pitching, swing the bats well. There are regions up there, the Cobb and Gwinnett (County) regions, their three and four seeds are usually as good as our No. 1 seed. It is going to be quite a challenge.”

Putnam County (13-6, 8-6 in Region 4) at Berrien (20-5, 12-0 in Region 1

When: Today; Doubleheader begins 3 p.m.; “If” game Saturday

Where: Dr. Frank Carter Field, Berrien High

Outlook: After being upset in the first round of last year’s state playoffs, the Berrien Rebels have returned in 2013 with a thunderous roar, climbing to the top of the rankings. The Rebels have an experienced team that went undefeated in Region 1-AA, one of the toughest regions in the state. Berrien, which has won three straight Region 1-AA championships, will host Putnam County, which is averaging five runs per game this season.

Local player to watch: Berrien’s five seniors. The Rebels have five seniors with plenty of experience and have been the reason the Rebels have climbed to the state’s top ranking and a 20-win season. With experienced gained as sophomores and juniors, this year’s senior class has ample experience in games and has been able to blow open games with one big inning countless time this season, while proving they can win close games, too.

Coach Doug Nix’s thoughts: “They are going to be good, obviously they are in the playoffs. You can’ take anyone lightly. They have a good left-handed pitcher.”

On if last year’s first round upset is motivating team?

“We are using that. I don’t think we took Brantley lightly (last year). I mean they made the quarterfinals. Our thing here, I tell them, ‘Look we aren’t worried about Putnam. We are worried about Berrien. We are worried about what we need to do.’ We are focused on ourselves and they know if they keep winning they move on.”   

Cook (17-8, 8-4 in Region 1) at Lamar County (18-6, 12-2 in Region 4)

When: Today; Doubleheader begins 4 p.m.; “If” game Saturday

Where: Lamar County High School, Barnesville

Outlook: Cook returns to the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season, this time with one of the youngest teams in program history. The Hornets have started four freshman on a regular basis. In round one, Cook will visit Lamar County, the region champion from Region 4. Lamar County is known as a power hitting team, having hit three home runs in one inning in a recent game. Cook has allowed just one home run this entire season.

Local player to watch: Ross Pickle, catcher. A senior on a young Hornets team, Pickle will play a key role in leading his young teammates through a playoff series.

Coach Cleve Edwards’ thoughts: “They won 18 ball games throughout the regular season, so I am expecting a solid team. They hit for power a lot more than we do. That is something different than what we have seen this year. I am going at it like we are treating it like it is another ball game. Obviously it holds more weight, but the kids are excited. We have done our part throughout the regular season to get here, and we are in the tournament. Now lets make a run to win this thing.”

Treulten (15-7, 6-4 in Region 3) at Clinch County (16-4, 11-3 in Region 2)

When: Today; Doubleheader begins 3 p.m.; “If” game Saturday

Where: Clinch County High, Homerville

Outlook: Clinch County enters the first round with the seventh seed, out of 16, in the Class A Public bracket of the GHSA state playoffs. Treulten enters as the 8th-ranked team. Clinch County is 16-4 this season, with losses coming to Trion, Charlton County (twice) and Lanier County.

Local player to watch: Bill Hendricks, pitcher/batter. Clinch County’s Bill Hendricks is the ace of the Clinch County staff, recording more than 10 strikeouts in five games this season. Hendricks, who at one point this season led the nation in strikeouts, recorded a season-high 17 strikeouts in a 1-0 loss to Trion earlier this season, but has also recorded 15 strikeouts in a win over Lanier County. Trevor Ellis has also been a solid pitching option for the Panthers, serving as the No. 2 in the rotation.

Coach Cecil Barber’s thoughts: “It has to quit raining in Homerville (for us to play). we have had about 2 1/2 inches all day (Thursday). If it hasn’t quite, the game will probably be rained out.”

On his team’s impressive 16-4 record this season: “They really worked hard over the summer and the fall. When we started coming together in January, we got looking together and started saying, ‘We might have something here.’ We’ve had great defense...They’re great group of guys to be around. They practice hard and they work hard.”

**All games rained out Friday will be made up Saturday, with the “If” games being held Monday.