The Statesboro Blue Devil softball team is coming off their first ever region, title as they took two out of three games from Ware County last week, including the finalee in dramatic fashion with a 1-0 win. The win not only gave the Blue Devils the region title, but more importantly the number one seed in Tuesday’s opening round of the Class-AAAAA state tournament.
“Being the number one seed in the state tournament feels great,” said Statesboro coach Jim Simmons, “We are not looking down the road, but we know if we keep winning, we remain at home, which is a great incentive.”
The victory assured the Blue Devils of home field advantage throughout the state playoffs, which begin Tuesday afternoon against the 15-8 Union Grove Wolverines. The Blue Devils are 20-6 on the season, and 13-1 at home this year.
“I don’t know exactly why it is that we always play so well at home,” Simmons said. “I don’t think it is that we have something peculiar about our field or setting. I know we get great support from the faculty, parents, and fans, but they support us on the road as well.”
The Wolverines come in with a 15-8 record and play in Region-4 which has some pretty impressive teams. Locust Grove won the region and is the two-time defending state champions. The region also includes Jones County, who was 20-10, and actually defeated Locust Grove, and Ola who was 17-10.
The Wolverines strength this year has been at the plate where they have an impressive team batting average of .356. They are led offensively by Anslie Mosel who bats .423 with five home runs, eight doubles and 26 RBI’s.
“They play in what I would call a very competitive region,” Simmons said. “The bottom teams may not be that good, but the top four can all play well. The state champion has come out of that region the past two years, so they won’t be intimidated. I don’t think they do anything great that jumps out at you, but they don’t have many weaknesses, and are very well coached.”
The Blue Devils and Wolverines will play a best two out of three series beginning Tuesday at 4:00 at Mill Creek Park. Game two is scheduled for 6:00, and if a third game is necessary it will be played on Wednesday.
The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jacket softball team completed their four-peat with a fourth straight region title, as they swept Islands last week in Brooklet. The victories ended the regular season for the Jackets at 22-6 and gave them home field advantage throughout the state playoffs, where they are 10-1 this year.
“I feel a lot better about our strength of schedule this year,” said Southeast Bulloch coach Aimee Civalier. “We only had to play everyone in our region one time, which allowed us to get schedule some really good non-region games, and that should help us prepare for state better.”
The Yellow Jackets are led on the mound by pitcher Alana Barnard who has 137 strikeouts in only 86 innings pitched. Offensively the Jackets have plenty of power and are led by freshman Delanie Thames with a .478 batting average, nine homers, 12 doubles, and 32 RBI’s. Junior Megan Lee is second on the team with a .463 average and four home runs. The Jackets have 20 home runs as a team and are batting .378.
“We have tried to get Alana ready for the post season all season long,”Civalier said. “We rested her when we could, and had her throw some innings as well to get her ready. I feel like our offense can do it all, hit, run and hit for power. Hopefully all that continues in the state.”
The Jackets were slated to play the number four seed out of region 1-AAA, which only has four teams. The GHSA has a rule that occasionally comes into play that a region with only four teams, where the fourth team has a poor record, can forfeit their spot in the state to a team that finished fifth in a tough region.
That rule came into play as Monroe was fourth in Region-1 and had a record of 0-9 in the region and 6-18 overall. Haralson was then chosen as an at-large team out of Region-6. The Rebels actually finished seventh in the regular season, but had an overall record of 17-12.
“We feel like a fifth seed out of a competitive region will probably be better than many four seeds,” Civalier said. “But we welcome the challenge.”
The Jackets know better than to take any team for granted, as last year they went into the state as the number one seed, and were upset by fourth seeded Long County, who took two straight games from the Jackets and ended their season.
“Getting knocked out in the first round last year is still in our girls minds,” Civalier said. “I am definitely using that as motivation to not look past this first round game, and they know we have to come prepared to play.”
The Rebels and the Yellow Jackets are scheduled to play the first of a three game series Wednesday at 4:00 in Brooklet. Game two is scheduled for around 6:00, and if a third game is necessary it would be played Thursday at 3:00.
Elsewhere the Portal Panthers have advanced to the postseason in fastpitch softball for only the second time in school history.
Portal finished the regular season at 13-9, and earned a spot in the state as they finished ranked in the top 24 in the Class-A public school power poll.
“Im extremely proud of these girls,” said Portal coach Travis Motes. “They have worked long hard hours, and pushed through a lot of adversity. We missed out on going to the state last year by 1/100th of a point. We are a very young team, and win lose or draw, I am proud of how this season has turned out.”
The last time time Portal made the state was 2016. The Panthers will hit the road to take on Wilcox County. The Patriots were 18-6 this year and finished in second place in Region-2. The Panthers will play a doubleheader Wednesday in Rochelle, with the third game Thursday if necessary.
As for the Bulloch Academy Gators, they won the region regular season, and will host the state GISA AAA playoffs. The Gators won the region and received a bye into the second round of the state, which starts this week.
The Gators will host a yet to be determined for on October 19th. Bulloch Academy wraps up the regular season Thursday at 4:00 against Robert Toombs.