GHSA Baseball Playoffs First Round
(2-of-3 series with doubleheader starts)
Grady (10-12) at Northwest Whitfield (21-5), 3
Heritage (16-10) at Redan (20-6), 2
Jackson County (16-10) at Ringgold (17-9), 4
Sonoraville (14-10) at Franklin County (13-13), 4:30
Calhoun (18-7) at Lovett (19-7), 5
Class A Public
Irwin County (14-11) at Gordon Lee (23-2), 4
Trion (14-10) at Hawkinsville (17-5), 4
Class A Private
Christian Heritage (12-11) at First Presbyterian Day (20-1)
CALHOUN, Ga. — When the GHSA baseball playoffs get under way later today, the usual suspects from the northwest Georgia area will be in action.
However, in addition to playoff veterans Calhoun, Gordon Lee, Ringgold and Heritage, there is Sonoraville. The Phoenix (14-10), coming off their first winning season, get their first taste of postseason action when they travel to Franklin County in Carnesville for the start of their Class AAA best-of-three series.
For those wondering if his team will be happy just to make it, coach Deron Walraven has a quick answer.
"That's not going to happen," said Walraven, whose collection of three seniors, six sophomores and one freshman form one of the state's youngest starting groups. "We're not satisfied. It's great to get a taste of playoff experience, but we're going there to win. We plan to take the same approach we've taken all year: Be excited about the opportunity but don't let the pressure get to you."
Sonoraville is one of eight area teams in the postseason. Here's a quick look at the other series:
Region 7 champion Northwest Whitfield returns from a five-year playoff hiatus to host Grady, and coach Todd Middleton believes his team has a good matchup.
"They've got good speed at the top of their lineup, but there's not any overpowering pitching," he said. "We're rested and ready to go."
Middleton will trot out lefty ace Seth Pierce in game one, with Andy Whisenant and Wade Terrell waiting in the wings.
Third-seeded Heritage has a tough draw in 20-6 Redan, which has a pair of aces in Brandon Baker and Mike Fore and a strong cleanup hitter in shortstop Wesley Jones. Coach Eric Beagles believes the key for the Generals is to take the series to game three.
"The key for beating these talented teams is to get them to game three and see what happens," he said. "If we get there I like our chances, and I like the way we've been playing lately. We'll have our hands full, that's for sure."
Joining Sonoraville is No. 2 seed Ringgold, the 2012 AAAA runner-up. The Tigers host a Jackson County team making its first playoff apperance since 1983. Coach Brent Tucker will rely on playoff veterans Austin Parrish, Slade Dale and Logan Baldwin in what he hopes to be another long postseason run.
"We feel good about where we are, though we're still making too many mental mistakes," he said. "Jackson County is a good, young team, and they throw about eight pitchers at you.
One of the premier first-round matchups in the state has Region 7 No. 3 seed Calhoun traveling to familiar playoff foe Lovett. The Lions ended the Yellow Jackets' season in the second round last year after Calhoun won a classic semifinal series at Lovett on the way to the 2010 state title.
"I was talking to [Lovett coach] Lance Oubs and we both remarked how this series is usually later in the playoffs, but it is what it is," Calhoun coach Chip Henderson said. "It's a good, clean rivalry with teams that respect each other. This may not be one of their better-hitting teams, but they have great pitching."
The first postseason of the public/private split in Georgia's smallest classification has ruffled a few feathers and raised more questions about the GHSA's power-ranking procedure, but the brackets are set and at least the three area teams involved know what's ahead.
On the public side, No. 5 overall seed Gordon Lee, despite not having lost to a public school this season, will likely get just one home series and starts it today by hosting Irwin County. The Trojans are hungry after failing to secure the No. 1 seed in a region championship loss to Mount Paran Christian Academy.
"It's been a little frustrating," Gordon Lee coach Mike Dunfee said. "But if we take care of business we'll be all right. These guys just want to get back on the field."
Trion earned the 11th seed and will travel to sixth-seeded Hawkinsville, while Christian Heritage, the 13th seed in the private bracket, will travel to First Presbyterian Day.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...