Two weeks ago, the Statesboro baseball team got the shot in the arm that it needed.
The Blue Devils (14-10) had lost to Wayne County in each of their first two meetings, but stormed their way to a 6-3 victory on April 9 in their regular season finale. The win didn’t stop the Yellow Jackets (18-5) from winning the sub-region, but it gives Statesboro plenty of confidence heading into tonight’s semifinal matchup in Jesup with a spot in the Region 3-AAAA title game on the line.
“Getting that win was big for us,” SHS coach Jim Simmons said. “I think we’re always confident in our ability to compete with anyone, but it helps to have a win against a team that you can look back on. Wayne is a tough team, but we know that we’re capable of playing a good game and winning.”
Statesboro would love to reach the region championship game, but it is grateful just to know that it still has more baseball to play after the region tournament.
The Devils had to win a three-game series against Cross Creek over the weekend to clinch a spot in the state playoffs. Statesboro dropped the first game of the series, but bounced back to take consecutive must-win games and keep its season alive.
Now that the state playoff bid is secure, the Devils can zero in on a region title.
Statesboro hasn’t decided on a starting pitcher for tonight’s contest. Colin Chance is the only Blue Devil who definitely won’t throw as he went six innings on Saturday. The Devils may choose to throw multiple arms at Wayne County as a similar strategy proved effective in their lone win over the Jackets.
The Devils’ pitching is much improved from last season and Statesboro feels like it has a great chance to win if its pitching gets some solid defense behind it.
“Pitching and defense is really what drove us in the final two games against Cross Creek,” Simmons said. “All of that feeds over to the offense. If we’re playing well defensively, then our pitchers can relax and our offense doesn’t feel the pressure to score a ton of runs.”
Even if the pitching and defense executes, there is still the matter of finding a way to score against the Jackets’ stellar pitching.
Wayne County is allowing just under two runs per game. The Jackets have tossed an impressive eight shutouts this season and have allowed just one run on seven other occasions.
The Blue Devils’ lineup isn’t stacked with power, but Statesboro is able to make plenty of contact and put the pressure on opponents to make plays in the field. To pull off the win, it will be important for Statesboro to grind out at bats, run the bases well, and come up with timely hitting when runners are on base.
“We’ve been getting on base pretty well,” Simmons said. “We had a problem getting guys home in that first game against Cross Creek. We started driving people around after that, so hopefully we’ll keep that up.”
The winner of tonight’s game will take on either South Effingham or Burke County on Friday to decide the Region 3-AAAA championship. All four teams will represent the region in the Class AAAA state playoffs scheduled to begin May 3.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.