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State baseball playoffs begin

    A pair of Bulloch County schools begin their journeys in the state baseball playoffs as Statesboro and Southeast Bulloch –—each No. 3 seeds — hit the road for their first round matchups.
    Statesboro (15-11) was on the brink of not even qualifying for the state tournament just over a week ago. The Blue Devils lost the first game of a three-game series against Cross Creek in the opening round of the Region 3-AAAA tournament, but rebounded to take the next two contests.
    Seeing as how today’s matchup against West Laurens (17-8) will be the first state playoff game for any of the players on Statesboro’s roster, last week’s pressure is a good primer for the do-or-die nature of the state tournament.
    “It definitely gives me a lot of confidence to know that our guys will bear down in a tough spot,” SHS coach Jim Simmons said. “I know that we’ve got a team full of guys who will step up when things get tough. I think we know that we can win and that we’ll keep playing hard, no matter the situation.”
    A few miles down the road in Brooklet, a veteran squad of Yellow Jackets is looking to make a big splash after two years of teetering on the edge of greatness.
    In 2011, Southeast Bulloch pulled off some big wins down the stretch to qualify for the state playoffs, only to be shut down by a powerhouse squad from Appling County. Last season, SEB entered with big expectations and played well throughout the regular season, but was upset in the region tournament and missed out on the state playoffs.
    This season, the Jackets (17-7) had another good showing, but had to work hard down the stretch. Some early losses put SEB in a tough spot, but the Jackets won seven of their final eight games to punch their ticket into the state tournament.
    “A lot of this year’s guys were big parts of the last two seasons,” SEB coach Brandon Peterson said. “I think both of those seasons have taught us a lot. We saw what it takes to win at the state level two years ago, and last year, we learned that things won’t come easy even if we have the talent.”
    The Jackets will try to take the next step as they travel to Callaway (15-8) for their first round series.
    Both teams will play doubleheaders today as part of a three game series. If the games are split, a decisive third game will be played on Saturday afternoon.

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