(3) Statesboro at (1) Locust Grove (Radio: 850 AM)
After trekking to the west end of the state to knock off Worth County in the first round of the Class AAAA state baseball playoffs, the Statesboro Blue Devils now have their sights set on the suburbs of Atlanta.
The Devils (21-6) travel to Locust Grove today for a second round matchup. The best-of-three series begins with a doubleheader at 4 p.m. If necessary, a third game will be played on Wednesday.
Despite a loss in the Region 3-AAAA tournament sending Statesboro to state as a No. 3 seed, the Devils were dominant in sweeping their way through the first round. Inclement weather pushed the series with Worth County into last weekend, but a quick series leaves the Devils with plenty of gas left in the tank and plenty of momentum as the Wildcats await their arrival.
“We’re definitely ready to get right back to work,” SHS coach Jim Simmons said. “From a rest standpoint, everyone is ready to go. We’ve got a solid team in Locust Grove to go up against and we’ll need to be on top of our game.”
Locust Grove will easily be one of the toughest challenges the Devils have run up against this season.
Sporting a gaudy record of 22-3, the Wildcats dropped just one game in over the course of a demanding region schedule and made short work of Mary Persons in the first round, chalking up wins of 14-4 and 6-0.
Simmons compared the Wildcats to Wayne County, which was the only team to beat Statesboro more than once in the regular season and managed another win over the Devils in the region semifinals.
“They’ve got their top two starters who are very similar to what we saw against Wayne,” Simmons said. “So it’s nothing we haven’t seen or aren’t prepared for, but they certainly have some good arms.
“Offensively, Locust Grove is very fundamental and has great team speed. We need to make sure we play sound defense. You can’t steal first base, so we don’t want to let them on for free.”
The Devils will try to counter Locust Grove’s stellar pitching with their newfound power. Not many baseballs make their way out of Statesboro’s spacious home field at Mill Creek Regional Park, but the Devils launched five home runs – including two each by Blakely Brown and Clay Reed – against Worth County.
No matter how the Devils create runs, they’ll rely on a pitching staff that has been consistent all season to keep the Wildcat bats at bay.
Jordan Finch will likely get the nod in today’s opening game, with Brown, Colin Chance and Austin Kleinlein all available in relief or as potential starters in the second game.
“We ran seven different guys out on the mound against Worth,” Simmons said. “We have confidence in all of them and won’t be afraid to use whoever we need to in this round.”
Fans that can’t make the trip to Locust Grove will be able to listen to every pitch of today’s action as the games will be broadcast on 850 AM locally.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.