By CHRIS STANLEY
Fueled by another magnificent performance from Madison Fields, Southeast Bulloch rolled through the first round of the playoffs against Monroe.
SEB run ruled Monroe 11-1 and 15-2 in both games, feasting on a slow pitcher just as they had done all throughout their region schedule. As a matter of fact, the games felt more like the double-headers SEB played during the regular season rather than a playoff atmosphere.
“I knew their pitcher wasn’t going to be strong, so the hard part was trying to adjusting to that speed,” said head coach Aimee Civalier. “I thought we did a great job adjusting to that speed.”
Either way, it was at the very least a good warm-up for the Yellow Jackets before the second round next week when SEB hosts region seven’s Union County -- who’s fresh off an upset of higher seed Lovett High School, sweeping 17-0, 9-3.
Fields looked fine-tuned through the six innings she pitched, allowing only one hit, one run — unearned — no walks and striking out 12 of the 19 batters she faced. She’s been the best constant all season for the Yellow Jackets and will need to continue to be going through the rest of the playoffs.
“I thought we played to our full potential,” said Emma Britt. “We really had fun with those games and we’re feeling confident going into next week.”
The concerns showed up on defense, where two of the three runs came via some infield mistakes on the part of SEB. In the first game Fields first hit was surrendered on a ground ball to first. While Jamilya Poole was safe, she decided to try and stretch the single into a double off a mishandled ball.
The mishandled ball was thrown past the bag at second base, allowing Poole to roll into third. Denver Bryant then stepped in and cracked a 1-2 pitch into left field that was deep enough to allow Poole to tag up and score the first run. Even though the deficit was only cut to 10-1, it was a concerning mistake that led to the run against a lower quality team.
“I talked to some other coaches of good teams, and they all told me she (Poole) would start for them,” Civalier said. “She was a good ball player for sure.”
In the second game when Fields had left and McKenzie Glisson pitching in relief, Ashante Anderson laid a bunt out in front of home plate but still couldn’t be fielded by SEB cleanly. After reaching base safely, Anderson would then proceed to steal second and third on consecutive pitches.
After Glisson recorded a strikeout for the first out, Daysha Polite laid down another soft bunt down the third base line that froze SEB’s infield and put runners on first and third. Poole would come back to hit a ground ball to first, allowing Monroe to avoid a shutout in game two — all off SEB’s inability to field bunts.
“I was upset with our defense for making mental mistakes,” Civalier said. “I don’t know if it’s the level of competition or not, but if we do that against Union next week it’s going to show.”
But those small details should not overshadow SEB’s dominance over the two games. The Yellow Jackets combined for 30 hits between the two games, totaling for a .500 team batting average and a combined .717 slugging percentage.
“We’re going to crank the pitching machine up back to speed to get used to come faster balls,” Civalier said. “And we need to clean up the defense.”
Emily Barnard stood out offensively in both games, combining to go 5-8 with two doubles, a triple, four RBI and six runs scored. Blair Chapman combined to go 4-8 with two doubles, four RBI and three runs scored. Fields added a 2-4 game one with three RBI and a double to go along with her stud pitching performance.
Southeast Bulloch (19-8) moves on to the second round next week to face Union County in a double header with game times TBD. Union County (18-11) was the third seeded team coming out of region seven behind East Hall and North Hall. Union County is ranked 21st in class AAA by MaxPreps.
Statesboro split their first round double-header with Union Grove, losing the first game 16-0 and winning the second game 4-3.
Errors doomed Statesboro in the first game, accumulating seven errors in the infield to allow Union Grove to run up the score and run rule Statesboro in just three innings. It was the worst loss the Blue Devils had incurred this season.
After cleaning up their defense in game two, Statesboro saw themselves tied 2-2 in the bottom of the third when Morgan Thompson smacked a two-run homer to put the Blue Devil’s up 4-2.
Heading to the bottom of the sixth Union Grove had cut the deficit to one and had a runner reach third with no outs. Brinson Anne Rogers, as she’d done all season, pitched Statesboro out of the jam and finished the game with a strikeout to force a rubber match today at 3:30 p.m.
Thompson would finish the second game with three RBI. Rogers would chip in the other RBI in game two. Rogers finished game two with five strikeouts and three walks on the mound.
Portal was swept in the first round of the playoffs by Hawkinsville 8-1 and 6-1 on the road.
Faith Ogelsby hit her first homerun of the season in game one to give Portal their lone run of that particular contest.
“Our bats let us down today but hats off to their pitcher,” said head coach Travis Motes. “It was a great season and I’m proud of my girls. I am going to miss these seniors.”
Portal finishes their season 15-9 as the best season in Mote’s tenure as head coach.