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Old region rivals meet in playoffs

    BROOKLET — Up until two years ago, Southeast Bulloch and Swainsboro could be counted on to be in the hunt for a Region 3-AA baseball title late in the season.
    Both schools made the leap up to Class AAA — and into separate regions — in 2012, but they have continued to excel on the diamond.
    The familiar foes will clash again today as the Yellow Jackets hit the road to take on the Tigers in the first round of the state playoffs.
    A doubleheader begins the best-of-three series today with a first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. If the teams split the first two games, a third and final game will be played in Swainsboro at 2 p.m. Saturday.
    “Getting to this point of the season was one of our goals when we first started back in February,” SEB coach Brandon Peterson said. “I think that just about everyone in the state has the goal of playing into May when the state playoffs start. We’re glad to be here, but we don’t want to be content with just making the field.”
    For much of the season, it seemed that the Jackets (14-9) were destined to earn a higher seed and the right to host the opening round of the postseason.
    SEB stood alone in second place in the competitive Region 1-AAA until the final week of the season, but late losses to Appling County and Pierce County took their toll. The Jackets ended up tied for second with Appling and were bumped to the No. 3 state seed after losing the tiebreaker.
    “We definitely would have liked to have been at home, but we aren’t too concerned about that,” Peterson said. “The main thing is that we’re in. As long as we go out there and play like we know we can, we’ll be happy.”
    On the other hand, Swainsboro finished the season with a mark of just 11-15 and hasn’t been over the .500 mark since the moments before a March 20 loss to Toombs County.
    The Tigers enter the playoffs with wins in just three of their last nine games, but an 8-4 mark in Region 3-AAA was enough to put Swainsboro in the No. 2 slot and give it the opportunity to host in the first round.
    While the Jackets won’t have the home field advantage, they also won’t suffer the pitfall of a massive, cross-state road trip that awaits some other lower seeds.
    SEB also won’t be worried about facing a higher seed.
    “We made a point to play a tough schedule this year,” Peterson said. “We have plenty of competition in our region, but we also played teams like Statesboro, ECI and Savannah Christian that are always tough teams. Swainsboro is going to be another big challenge, but I think we’re ready to compete.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.