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Baseball state tournament

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Pitchers Kevin Martin (left) of Eagle's Landing Christian and Darion Austin of Jonesboro will led their teams into their respective first round playoff series starting today.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Pitchers Kevin Martin (left) of Eagle's Landing Christian and Darion Austin of Jonesboro will led their teams into their respective first round playoff series starting today.

The slates have been wiped clean.

For seven Southern Crescent baseball teams today begins the second season with the start of the state playoffs. For the next four weeks, teams across the state will battle it out for classification supremcy.

There are seven teams from the area in four of the five classifications trying to bring home a state title. Luella, Locust Grove and Eagle’s Landing Christian are trying to become the first school from Henry County to win a championship since the 2006 ELCA team won a title.

Lovejoy, Mundy’s Mill, Jonesboro and Mount Zion are hoping to win Clayton County's first state championship since Forest Park won it in 1985.

Staff writers Brian Paglia and Derrick Mahone take a look at the teams from the area in the state-title chase:

CLASS AAAAA

Coffee at Luella

Records, seeding: Coffee County is 13-14 and the No. 4 seed from Region 1-AAAAA; Luella is 19-6 and the No. 1 seed from Region 2-AAAAA.

Schedule: First game starts at 4:30 p.m., with second game to follow 30 minutes after conclusion. If necessary, Game 3 will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Hitting: The Lions have a formidable 3-4-5 trio of seniors Chase Scott (.530, 4 HR, 25 RBI), Vincent Jackson (.397, 2 HR, 28 RBI) and Eric Pape (.278, 2 HR, 24 RBI). If they can get more production out of the bottom of the lineup, Luella can score runs in a hurry, which they’ve done lately. The Lions ended the regular season with five straight games scoring 10 runs or more.

Pitching: Opponents have to deal with three senior left-handers from Luella — Jackson, Matt Kelley and Kendall Hill — and the Lions have more arms in reserve if needed. Hill has been impressive in his return from a shoulder injury that cost him most of last season. Kelley was the Lions’ top pitcher last season, winning eight games.

Overview: Luella reached the quarterfinals the past two seasons only to lose to the eventual state champion. The Lions’ seven seniors are eager to take the next step with a stress-free first round against a Coffee team that went 3-9 after March 29.

Coach Andy Cooper says: “We’ve scored a lot of runs the last couple of weeks. If we can keep the bottom of the lineup going like they have been, I think it’s going to bode well for us.”

What’s next: Winner faces the Peachtree Ridge-Grayson winner on Wednesday.

CLASS AAAA

Northgate at Lovejoy

Records, seeding: Northgate is 14-12 and the No. 4 seed from Region 3-AAAA; Lovejoy is 21-5 and the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AAAA.

Schedule: First game starts at 4:30 p.m. with second game 30 minutes after conclusion. If necessary, Game 3 will be at noon Saturday.

Hitting: The Wildcats don’t hit with a lot of power as its one home run this season would be evident, but they have been effective at playing “small ball,” according to coach Craig Chatman. Vance Johnson has been productive as a leadoff hitter this season. Lovejoy has been good at the hit and run to score runs.

Pitching: Lovejoy has a stable of quality arms, including three lefties, that it can throw. Coach Craig Chatman has juggled his lineup some in the late stages of the season to give a lot of players some work on the mound. The pitching staff has done a good job at not walking a lot of opponents.

Overview: Several seniors have played in a lot of games the last four years. This will be the senior class’ second straight trip to the post season. A good showing last season in the first round has given the Wildcats a lot of confidence as they play at home. Chatman has been impressed with the team’s defense this season.

Coach Craig Chatman says: “We have done well on the mound this season. I think our defense has been better because we don’t walk a lot of people. I’ve been pleased with our ability to execute.”

What’s next: Winner faces the Dunwoody-Pope winner on Wednesday.

Jones County at Mundy’s Mill

Records, seeding: Jones County is 18-7 and the No. 3 seed from Region 3-AAAA; Mundy’s Mill is 19-6 and the No. 2 seed from Region 4-AAAA.

Schedule: First game starts at 4 p.m. with second game 30 minutes after conclusion. If necessary, Game 3 will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Hitting: After experiencing a slump early in the season, the Tigers have been hitting the ball well lately. Third baseman Rashad Crawford, a Savannah State signee, has been the team’s leading hitter. Mathew Wilson, Trey Matthews, Corey Harmon and Rodney Smith have also been consistent at the plate.

Pitching: Jerek Wright and Harmon have been the top pitchers. Coach Patrick Smith says when those two pitch, it gives the team a lot of confidence.

Overview: A tough earlier season schedule has paid off for the Tigers, who are on a 16-game winning streak. Mundy’s Mill came a game within repeating as region champions. The team has five players that has scored 20 or more runs this season.

Coach Patrick Smith says: “We feel we have prepared ourselves for this situation. We don’t think the other team can throw anything at us that we haven’t seen this season. I feel like the guys are ready to play.”

What’s next: Winner faces the Marist-Villa Rica winner on Wednesday.

Jonesboro at Whitewater

Records, seeding: Jonesboro is 21-5 and the No. 3 seed from Region 4-AAAA; Whitewater is 19-6 and the No. 2 seed from Region 3-AAAA.

Schedule: First game starts at 4 p.m. with second game 30 minutes after conclusion. If necessary, Game 3 will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Hitting: The Cardinals have been sort of “up and down” at the plate this season. Coach Dan Maehlman says the most consistent hitters have been Dustin Boggs and Chris Smith. When he gets on base, outfielder Cameron Sutton is a threat to steal.

Pitching: Brandon Jackson sports an 11-1 record and Darion Austin and Boggs are also a part of the Cardinals’ three-man rotation. Maehlman says the pitching has been good enough to keep them in every game.

Overview: The biggest problem for Jonesboro this season has been its fielding. About 75 percent of Jonesboro’s opponent’s runs have been unearned. Jonesboro has won seven of its last eight games, including two shutout victories.

Coach Dan Maehlman says: “In the five games that we have lost, we have committed five or more errors. We have had a good week of practice. I think they are ready to get after it.”

What’s next: Winner faces the Alexander-Chamblee winner on Wednesday.

Mount Zion at Harris County

Records, seeding: Mount Zion is 13-11 and the No. 4 seed from Region 4-AAAA; Harris County is 20-5 and the No. 1 seed from Region 3-AAAA.

Schedule: First game Friday at 5 p.m. with second game 30 minutes after conclusion. If necessary, Game 3 would be at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Hitting: Mount Zion has been swinging some hot bats lately. In its last five games, the Bulldogs have scored 67 runs to reach the playoffs. Junior Kenneth Wiggins is batting .468 with 24 RBIs, while senior J’wanni Austin is hitting .455 with 21 RBIs. Although he is hitting only .298, junior Emmanuel Parks is a big threat once he gets on base. He has 21 stolen bases.

Pitching: Coach Kelcey White said a deep pitching staff has carried the team in the later part of the season. Mount Zion ended the regular season playing nine games in 10 days while compiling a 7-3 record. Wiggins has a 6-1 record with three saves. The team is able to use about seven different pitchers.

Overview: This is the first state playoff appearance for Mount Zion, which opened in 1990. The Bulldogs have put together consecutive winning seasons, and missed the postseason last year by one game. While they may lack postseason experience, Mount Zion makes up in enthusiasm. Harris County is ranked No. 4 in the state and has won seven of its last eight games, including five in a row.

Coach Kelcey White says: “What has made us successful this season has been our depth. We have gotten some great leadership. These kids are very excited about this opportunity.”

What’s next: Winner faces the East Paulding-Redan winner on Wednesday.

CLASS AAA

Locust Grove at Cross Creek

Records, seeding: Locust Grove is 13-10 and the No. 4 seed from Region 4-AAA; Cross Creek is 20-5-1 and the No. 1 seed from Region 3-AAA.

Schedule: First game starts at 4 p.m., with second game to follow 30 minutes after conclusion. If necessary, Game 3 will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Hitting: Senior second baseman Bo Danekes (.500) has led Locust Grove’s lineup, while sophomore outfielder Cortez McDowell (.450) has also been dangerous. Freshman Tyler Sellars leads the team with two home runs.

Pitching: The Wildcats have relied on young arms this season. There isn’t a senior among their top four pitchers. But there is a freshman (Sellars), two sophomores (Dalton Kuhn, Drew Young) and a junior (Tyler Duncan).

Overview: Coming off a 16-8 season and the school’s first playoff appearance, Locust Grove dealt with the loss of a large senior class and snuck into the playoffs on the final game of the regular season. They’ll face a Cross Creek team that knows about rebuilding. The Razorbacks were 8-12 as recently as 2010.

Coach Stephen Phillips says: “I think it’ll be a great series. ... The big thing is we’re going to have to swing the bats well, and of course, it’s going to come down to our pitching staff.”

What’s next: Winner faces the St. Pius X-LaGrange winner on Wednesday.

CLASS A

Commerce at Eagle's Landing Christian

Records, seeding: Commerce is 21-6 and the No. 3 seed out of Regoin 8-A; ELCA is 20-5 and the No. 1 seed out of Region 9-A.

Schedule: First game starts at 4 p.m., with second game to follow 30 minutes after conclusion. If necessary, Game 3 will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Hitting: In a year where the Chargers seemingly had a different player come through each game, Dazmon Cameron managed to separate himself. The freshman outfielder is the team’s lead-off batter and is hitting a team-best .460. But the Chargers have gotten good production from their 3-4 hitters Jacob Heyward, the younger brother of Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, and Matthew Hammers. Both are hitting over .300, and Heyward leads the team in home runs (3) and walks.

Pitching: There’s no mystery when it comes to ELCA’s pitching staff. Tennessee Tech signee Kevin Martin is the clear No. 1 starter and the only senior on the team. But junior Patrick Busscher has been a solid No. 2 starter behind him, and the Chargers have confidence in relievers Larson Gailes and Cameron Ragsdale.

Overview: ELCA doesn’t get the typical first round opponent most No. 1 seeds face. Commerce is ranked No. 10 in Class A, played in one of the strongest regions and returned its top two pitchers. The Chargers

Coach Doug Campbell says: “It’s a tough draw. Commerce is very good. They pitch very well. They’re a solid team. We’re not going to just show up and advance. We’re going to have to really work hard.”

What’s next: Winner faces the Mount Paran-Wesleyan winner on Wednesday.