For the softball teams at Southeast Bulloch and Screven County, it’s time to get down to business.
After successful runs through the regular season, both teams have qualified for the Region 3-AA tournament, which begins today.
Screven County finished its region schedule with an undefeated record and takes the region tournament’s top seed for the second straight year. The No. 1 seed is especially valuable this season because of the new tournament structure.
This year, only six teams — the top three from each sub-region — advance to the tournament. The top seed from each sub-region has earned a bye through the first round of the region tournament and is assured of a spot in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs beginning next week.
“I think that makes things a little more fair,” said Screven coach Billy Pollock. “Before, all you had to do was get to the region tournament and anything could happen. There was less of an incentive to get the top spot. Now, knowing that the top seed will get to state is a reward to shoot for.”
The Lady Gamecocks now get to wait as Dodge County — ranked sixth in the state — and Jefferson County battle in the first round for the right to face Screven.
This year, the Gamecocks are hoping to improve on a 2009 campaign that saw them reach the Elite Eight of the state tournament. Screven has a few more losses than at this point last season, but has played a tougher schedule and feels more prepared for the challenges that await.
“The regular season went about how we expected,” said Pollock. “We had a little trouble at the Greenbriar tournament, but I think we’ve learned from it. Our girls have shown a great work ethic leading up to the region tournament, so I think we’ll be ready to go.”
For the Yellow Jackets, the road to the state playoffs is a bit tougher.
SEB finished in second place behind Screven in the “A” sub-region and will have to defeat East Laurens in the first round of the region tournament to ensure a spot in the state brackets.
The Jackets dropped their final region game in the regular season — a 9-4 setback at the hands of the Gamecocks— but are otherwise peaking at just the right time. SEB finished off its regular season slate with a 4-3 victory over Calvary Day in eight innings and has lost only last week’s Screven game out of its last 10 contests.
All matchups in the region tournament will consist of best-of-three series.
“I pushed hard for that change when the region was considering it,” said Pollock. “That’s how all of the series are in state, so I think it will prepare all of our teams better for what’s to come.”
As the No. 2 seed, SEB will host the games against the Lady Falcons. The opening game will begin today at 4 p.m. with the second game following immediately after. If necessary, a decisive third game will begin Friday at 5 p.m.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.