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SEB, Screven getting things started in playoffs


Southeast Bulloch’s softball team has a long road ahead of it if it wants to make a deep run in the GHSA Class AAA playoffs. Actually, the road is plenty long just to get to the first game.

The No. 3 seeded Lady Yellow Jackets (21-6) will travel almost 250 miles this morning en route to their first round matchup against No. 2 Chapel Hill (20-13).

SEB will depart Brooklet at 7:30 a.m. with nearly five hours of bus riding ahead of them before taking on the Lady Panthers in a best-of-three series beginning at 3 p.m. The teams will play a doubleheader today. If they split the games, the Jackets will stay in town overnight and hold a decisive Game 3 at noon on Thursday.

"It’s definitely a long haul to get up there," said SEB coach Aimee Civalier. "But it might work out well for us. This is our homecoming spirit week, so getting out of school and away from all of that celebration will hopefully let our girls get into the right frame of mind to start a playoff series."

Just a few weeks ago, such a long trip didn’t seem as if it would be necessary. The Jackets won their sub-region, but fell in the Region 1-AAA semifinals. SEB defeated Brantley County in a consolation game for the No. 3 seed, but wasn’t afforded the luxury of beginning the postseason at home.

"We had a tough region that could have played out just about any way," said Civalier. "Talking to Chapel Hill’s coach, they were in the same position. We both come from quality regions and really weren’t sure where we would finish until everything played out in the region tournaments."

In order to move on, the Jackets will have to overcome the long road trip and lean on their experience.

Last season, a young group of Jackets were able to battle their way to Columbus for the Elite Eight. Seven starters from that team are still in the lineup and hope that another year of experience will prove to be the difference in getting them to the next step.

"I think our girls are ready," said Civalier. "We know what we have to do and what it takes to win this time of year. We also know that our opponents are in the same position. Chapel Hill is a good program that has been to Columbus as well. I don’t think that either team thinks this series will be easy."


Screven opens at home

The Screven County Gamecocks have the luxury of staying at home, but have also drawn some pretty stiff competition.

The Gamecocks (13-13) are the No. 2 seed out of Region 3-AA and face Bacon County (24-6) which fell to the No. 3 seed out of Region 2-AA despite climbing as high as No. 2 in the state polls this season.

"That’s just the way that things can work in the postseason," said Screven coach Billy Pollock. "Bacon County has a very good team, but they slipped up in the semifinals of the region tournament. That’s a tough team to start with, but if we want to win, we’d have to go through teams like this at some point anyways."

Screven is riding a solid month and a half of play into the postseason. The Gamecocks loaded their non-region schedule with tough competition and saw their young roster take some lumps, seemed to learn their lessons as they stormed to a second place regular season and tournament finish in the region.

A bit of that youth did show up to hurt Screven in its last outing. Facing Harlem in the region championship series, a handful of errors cost the Gamecocks a 10-0 loss in the first game. They also lost Game 2, but put forth a much more composed performance.

"That’s been the story of our season against some of the better teams we’ve played," said Pollock. "We’ll have a bad game, then turn things right around. But youth and inexperience isn’t an excuse for us anymore. We’re 27 games into the season and all of the games moving forward are ones where we need to show up."

The Gamecocks will have to get a solid performance both on the mound and at the plate to advance. Dawn Stewart has been the Gamecocks’ ace for two years and has plenty of big game experience, but will have her work cut out in trying to quiet the Bacon County bats.

"They have about four girls that were just born to hit," said Pollock. "We’ll do our best to slow them down and it will be important to take care of the bottom of the order to make sure there aren’t many runners on base for them.

"From there, we just need to play within ourselves. Get on base, be smart, and find a way to score some runs. That’s how you have to win against quality teams in the playoffs."