Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
The wait is finally over for the seven teams in the Southern Crescent that made the state baseball playoffs.
Teams open their best-of-three series this afternoon throughout the state in quest of a title.
"We are really excited about the playoffs," Luella senior shortstop Julius Gaines said.
Five teams - Luella, Ola, Mundy's Mill, Jonesboro and Locust Grove - all get to host first round games. Ola and Mundy's Mill won their respective region championship while Jonesboro, Locust Grove and Luella all finished runner-up.
'Eagle's Landing Christian Academy was runner up in Region 9-A, but Class A has an odd number of regions. The Chargers lost a coin flip and have to travel to Kennesaw to take on Mount Paran.
"We aren't worried about playing on the road," designated hitter Brandon Barrett said. "We kind of get inspired by the visiting crowd."
Lovejoy coach Craig Chatman is hopeful his team will find some inspiration as the Wildcats make the four-hour trek to Jesup to take on nationally-ranked Wayne County. The Yellow Jackets are 24-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA.
Lovejoy is making its first state playoff appearance since the 2000 season, but the prior to moving down to Class AAAA, the Wildcats played in Region 4-AAAAA. During that time, the team faced contenders Newnan, Chapel Hill and East Coweta, which featured solid pitching staffs.
"We know people are not giving us a chance," Chatman said. "We are long shot, but this is not Vegas. Our kids are tough."
Jonesboro is one of the hottest teams in the area after having won 16 straight. The Cardinals will host Greenbrier, which is five-time state champion and lost in the second round in Class AAAAA in 2010.
"We are getting contributions from all the players on the team," Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman said.