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SHS opens region baseball tourney

    For the first time since the 2009 season, Statesboro’s baseball team will host a postseason contest.
    The Blue Devils (16-5) finished off their Region 3-AAAA slate with a 3-0 win over South Effingham last week. The victory tied the Devils for first place in their sub-region and tiebreakers granted Statesboro a top seed as the region tournament begins today.
    Statesboro hosts Hephzibah — fourth seed out of the northern sub-region — in a best-of-three series that begins with a 4 p.m. doubleheader today at Mill Creek Regional Park.
    The Blue Devils enter the series as heavy favorites, but must come away with a win in order to qualify for the Class AAAA state tournament.
    “We know that this (series) is important,” SHS coach Jim Simmons said. “Getting to state is a big goal. The important thing is to treat this like any other region game.”
    Statesboro has relied upon its consistency to claim its spot as a top seed.
    While the Devils advanced to the second round of the state playoffs last season, it took a late season charge and a big rally in the region tournament just to qualify.
    This time around, Statesboro has methodically worked its way through the regular season with a steady combination of quality pitching and improved defense.
    Two veteran starters, Jordan Finch and Colin Chance, figure to get the starting nods in today’s doubleheader.
    “I’m confident in what we can accomplish in the postseason,” Finch said. “I know that I feel good on the mound and I’ve got a lot of faith in our defense to make all of the plays.”
    Connor Akins, Wil Stuart and Austin Kleinlein have also served the Devils well from the mound and figure to be leaned on in key situations in the postseason.
    While the pitchers have set the tone, the Statesboro offense has proven to be potent in its own right.
    The cavernous confines of Mill Creek Park doesn’t lend itself to many home runs, but Blakely Brown, Chance and Akins all supply plenty of power in the middle of the Statesboro batting order.
    If Statesboro and Hephzibah split today’s games, a decisive third game will be played Friday.
    The series winner will clinch a state playoff berth and will advance to the region semifinals, another best-of-three series, next week.

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