A season that started in the oppressive heat of August is cranking up the pressure just as the temperatures are cooling off.
Southeast Bulloch and Portal took very different paths en route to the postseason.
The Panthers — still stocked with freshmen and sophomores learning their way in varsity play — had a rollercoaster ride. Portal (8-16, 3-7 Region 3-A) gained some confidence with a good opening month before struggling through some of the tougher opponents its region had to offer.
Southeast Bulloch (18-9, 10-0 Region 1 A-AAA) laid waste to its sub-region, though admittedly the weaker of the two sides in 1-AAA. Where the Lady Yellow Jackets’ county neighbors in Portal are just trying to build some tradition in softball, SEB wants to return to the state playoffs after a rare off season in 2013.
While some regions pit two teams in best-of-three series to determine which region members will move on to state, both Portal and SEB are staring at some complicated brackets.
Large regions and a double-elimination tournament mean that plenty of possibilities exist. The only guarantee is that two losses — at least two quick ones — will put an end to the season.
“Personally, I like the format,” SEB coach Aimee Civalier said. “You’re never sure how it’s going to play out, but playing the same team again and again (in a series) can wear on you. I think the tournament format helps you to focus on each team.”
The Jackets will get their tournament started at noon today against Appling County at Pierce County Middle School — which, along with the high school, will host all tournament games.
SEB defeated the Lady Pirates (14-10, 11-4) by a score of 8-0 early in the season. Of course, the stakes are a bit higher in October.
“A lot can change,” Civalier said. “Madison (Fields) pitched well last time and she’ll go again. But that’s one of the challenges. All of our pitchers are going to get work over a long tournament and our offense needs to score runs to help them out.”
Portal will have an even earlier start to its day, taking on Jenkins County at 10 a.m. at the Paulson Sports Complex in Savannah.
These teams also have a history as Portal claimed a 10-2 victory over the Lady Eagles (4-18, 2-8) on Sept. 25.
The Panthers are leaning hard on their continuing youth movement as underclassmen attempt to make a run.
Keri Carter has been a consistent force on the mound for the Panthers and has joined Caitlyn Girardeau as big run producers in the batting order. With Faith Reddick and Faith Oglesby adding more offense and speed, the Panthers have the potential to play above their record and No. 8 seed if they can find a rhythm.
A win will advance Portal to a Noon matchup. A loss would put them on the brink of elimination and force them into an elimination game at 2 p.m. In all, it could take four games for Portal to escape the first day.
The postseason is fun and thrilling, but no one ever said it was easy.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.