SYLVANIA — Postseason success is getting to be a tradition for Screven County baseball, but a familiar foe now stands in the way of the Gamecocks.
Today, Screven travels to Hazelhurst to take on Jeff Davis in the second round of the Georgia High School Association playoffs. The first two games of the three-game series will be held today starting at 4 p.m. If necessary, a decisive Game 3 will be held — also in Hazelhurst — Thursday at 4 p.m. to determine which team will move on to the Class-AA quarterfinals.
Screven, which is loaded with multiple-year starters, will also have a mental hurdle to overcome as the Yellow Jackets (18-12) have eliminated the Gamecocks (13-13) from the state tournament in each of the last two seasons.
“We know what the recent history has been,” said Screven coach Billy Pollock. “We remember the last couple of years, but this is a new year. We just need to go down there and play our best.”
It’s no surprise that these two teams lock horns once again as the routes that both have taken to advance this far into the season have been so similar.
Both teams scheduled a tough slate of non-region competition to begin the year and took their lumps as the Gamecocks started off 2011 with an 0-5 record and the Jackets dropped their first three games of the season.
But both teams used the early hard knocks to grow and improve, leading both Screven and Jeff Davis on a tear through their respective region schedules.
Screven wrestled away the top sub-region spot from rival Southeast Bulloch in the last week of the season before falling to a state No. 2 seed after losing to Dodge County while Jeff Davis stormed to a 14-2 record in Region 2-AA, easily taking the No. 1 seed from its region.
Each team carried the momentum of their region runs into the opening round of the state tournament as both completed first round sweeps – Screven downing Thomasville and Jeff Davis putting away Lamar County.
“When you get to this part of the year, it’s all about living to fight another day,” said Pollock. “You want to play well, but sometimes you have to scrap. Whatever it takes to keep advancing.”
This year, Screven is looking to turn the tables on a particularly disappointing end to its 2010 campaign.
Last season, the Gamecocks earned the top seed out of Region 3-AA, but were stunned on their home field in the opening round of the state playoffs by a Jeff Davis squad that had uncharacteristically stumbled to a No. 4 seed, but still found a way to be a thorn in Screven’s side.
Now, the Gamecocks have a chance to turn the tables.
“It was a tough one to take,” said Pollock of last year’s early exit. “This year, Jeff Davis is the No. 1 seed and we’ve got to go there. We know it will be a tough series with them, but it sure would be nice to turn things around and have a chance to knock them off.”
Screven will likely stick to its free-swinging and aggressive offense, which is able to produce big innings at a moment’s notice and capitalize on any mistake made by opponents.
The Gamecocks are also likely to stick to the same pitching rotation that got them through the first round.
Jonathan Long is the logical choice to start Game 1 with Blake Evans getting the nod in the tail end of today’s doubleheader.
If a Game 3 presents itself, no clear starter has emerged, but Pollock has stated that he has faith in four or five different players to take the mound and get the job done.
The winner of the series will advance to play either Lovett, the No. 3 seed out of Region 6, or Coosa, the No. 4 seed out of Region 7.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.