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Jackets cruise to first round win

    Wednesday began with the top 32 teams in Class AAA vying for the state championship. The postseason is supposed to bring about the stiffest competition of all, but Southeast Bulloch treated first round opponent Jackson much like the region it had dominated to earn a No. 1 seed in the state tournament.
    The Lady Yellow Jackets battled out a tough 3-0 victory in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader before pouring it on and winning 11-2 in the second game, sweeping the Red Devils out of town and advancing to the second round.
    “We came out and took care of business,” SEB coach Aimee Civalier said. “We weren’t quite swinging our bats the best early on, but we eventually came around. Our pitching and defense were big for us all day and everyone stayed focused.”
    After winning the opener, a soaking rain started to fall.
    The teams played through the weather and — when Red Devils starter Bailey Christian struggled — Southeast Bulloch took full advantage.
    After having their first batter of the game retired, the Jackets’ simply stood in the batter’s box and shook off some bruises as eight consecutive batters reached via drawing a walk or being hit by a pitch.
    Christian was soon relieved by Mallory Watson, but the damage had already been done as SEB plated 10 runs in the frame.
    “The weather was tough,” Civalier said. “The rain makes that ball slick. Maybe it was raining a little harder when they were pitching than when we were, but we’ll take that break.”
    Shylah Thames took the circle for SEB in the second game and allowed one run over 2.2 innings before allowing three straight singles and a hit batter to make it 11-2. Mackenzie Glisson had mowed down the Red Devils in the first game and came on to escape the third inning jam.
    SEB escaped another tight spot in the fourth inning when Mallory Hardy’s strong throw from centerfield cut down a Jackson runner at the plate to end the inning. Glisson worked a clean fifth frame and the game — and series — was ended via mercy rule.
    “I feel like we really settled in during the second game,” Civalier said. “We had the big first inning, but we didn’t let up. We got good efforts out of everyone in the field and with our pitchers to finish it.”
    The first game saw a dominant pitching performance by Glisson, but it was necessary as SEB’s bats couldn’t produce a big inning.
    Watson started the game for Jackson and was constantly able to dance around danger. Southeast Bulloch edged ahead in the bottom of the second when Madison Grams led off with a single and was doubled home by Mallory Lewis, but that’s where the score remained until the fifth inning.
    “We were a little out in front with our bats early,” Civalier said. “And when we hit it hard, their third baseman and left fielder made some great plays to keep runs off the board.”
    Back-to-back doubles by Hardy and Glisson got another run home for the Jackets in the fifth and an insurance run was added to provide the winning margin.
    With the series win, the Jackets are one more series away from advancing back to Columbus for a second straight Elite Eight appearance. SEB will host a best-of-three second round series against either Cook or Brantley County beginning next Wednesday.
    “I’m excited,” Civalier said. “It should be interesting. We’re very familiar with both of those teams. We’ve had success against them and they’ve beaten us before. It will be a tough series, regardless of who we play.”