After a thrilling final week of the regular season, the Gators of Bulloch Academy are set to open the GISA Class AAA state baseball playoffs this afternoon.
The Gators (11-6) completed their regular season with a 13th-inning comeback win over region champion and archrival Pinewood. That set up a one game playoff on Monday with Frederica on St. Simon’s Island for second place. Bulloch came away with the win and now get the home field advantage as it hosts Tiftarea in a best-of-three series beginning with a doubleheader today at 1 p.m. at Gator Alley.
Despite having the better seed and not having to travel, the Gators aren’t taking the Panthers lightly.
“Last season, Tiftarea played for the state championship,” Bulloch coach Chris Bishop said. “Looking at their scores from this season, they were in a really competitive region. They are a few runs away from being a 1-seed. I think they’re definitely the best 3-seed in the state.”
Heading into this year’s playoffs, the Gators are surprisingly healthy. With most of the roster competing on Bulloch’s football, basketball and track teams throughout the year, previous teams have limped to the finish line.
Even with everyone reporting in as healthy, there are still some scheduling obstacles. Wednesday’s practice marked the first batting practice that many Gators had participated in for nearly a week as last weekend saw a handful of players competing at the state track meet in Albany.
“I’m proud of what our guys have already accomplished,” Bishop said. “Last season, a lot of our guys were starting for the first time and we took some lumps. This year, we’re showing our experience.
“They’re also showing toughness. It’s amazing what they do against some teams where baseball is a fulltime sport for most of the guys.”
The Gators have had some ups and downs at the plate this season, but they intend to ride their consistent pitching and defense as far as it can take them in the postseason.
Smith Reeves has been a dominant ace for Bulloch throughout the season, amassing a 5-1 record and a sub-1.50 ERA. Reeves figures to take the ball for Game 1 today as his innings were limited over the final week in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
Behind Reeves is a deep pitching corps featuring Joshua Bishop, Will Marsh, Walker Hennon and Dylan Marlowe.
“We’re very confident with our pitching,” Bishop said. “Tiftarea has good pitching as well, but we’ve got a lot of bullets to fire. We just need to stay focused in the mound and on the field. If we play our game, we’re confident.”
Game 2 will start 30 minutes after the opener today. If necessary, a decisive third game will be played at Gator Alley Saturday at 11 a.m.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.