VALDOSTA -- It's time for the high school baseball playoffs. Lowndes High and Valdosta High open the Class AAAAA playoffs today with first-round doubleheaders. The Vikings (20-6) host Morrow, while Valdosta travels to Redan.



The Valdosta Wildcats (18-7) have their work cut out for them. Redan is 24-2, the Region 2-AAAAA champion, and is ranked No. 9 in the state, hardly the opponent the Wildcats wanted to start the playoffs against. Valdosta's challenge will be to make Redan do something in three games that it has taken all season for them to do: lose twice. "Redan's got a great team. They're 24-2, and I think that says a lot," Valdosta head coach Bart Shuman said. "Redan is a program with a lot of history, and they're going to be tough. They've hit 30 home runs this season. We've hit eight."



But the Wildcats' coach says his team will be ready. "I have confidence in our guys," Shuman said. "I know they're going to go in there and give it their all. They won't be intimidated. They're going to be aggressive, and try to do what they have to do to win." Hopefully Valdosta's players are morning people: they leave for Redan at 6:30 a.m. today. The first game will begin at 1 p.m., because Redan doesn't have lights on its field. Game 3, if necessary, will be at 1 p.m. Saturday. Will Flail (7-3), Valdosta's ace all season, will go to the mound in Game 1. The Wildcats will send Ryan Danbury (2-1) to the mound in the second game. "Will's done a good job for us all season, and he's the guy we're going with," Shuman said. "Ryan's been throwing the ball well lately."



Valdosta may not have Redan's power, but the Wildcats do have six hitters batting over .300: Danbury, Flail, Briggs Smotherman, Will Welch, Brent Turner and Tuzer Chism. Lowndes (20-6) comes into the playoffs playing well. The Vikings, No. 10 in AAAAA, have won 15 of their last 17 games, and just wrapped up their sixth region championship in the last eight years. "We're playing good baseball," Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. "We've been swinging the bats well. The pitchers have been doing their jobs. What I've been happiest about is our defense; we're doing real well. Like I said, we're just playing good baseball right now."



The first game will begin at 5 p.m. at Noel George Field, with the second game to follow afterwards. Redshaw said he didn't know what his rotation would be in the playoffs, but either JonMichael Redding (3-2) or Chris Mederos (7-0) will start the first game, with the other one to follow in the second game.



"They're both good pitchers. We like our chances with either one on the mound," Redshaw said.

Nearly every Lowndes batter is hitting over .300, led by Matt Harper's .554, Colby Yates' .448 and Redding's .410. What does Lowndes' coach know about Morrow? "I know they're in the playoffs," Redshaw said. "They're a young team with a young coach, but they were good enough to get into the playoffs as the fourth seed."



Lowndes will be at home the first two rounds of the playoffs (if they win this series), and possibly longer. Home field advantage never hurts. "It's good to be at home," Redshaw said. "That's the reward for being first in the region. Noel George Field has been good to us. We usually have good crowds at home. We like being at home."

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