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Top-seeded Statesboro faces baseball semifinal against Wayne

#3 Wayne County at #1 Statesboro
6 p.m., Tuesday
Region 3-AAAA tournament

    Statesboro has been solid on the baseball diamond throughout the season and a win in the region finale two weeks ago earned them a top seed in the Region 3-AAAA playoffs.
    Wayne County — who beat the Blue Devils in two of their three meetings —was the only school with Statesboro’s number in the regular season, but the Devils (18-5) have a chance for revenge as they host the Yellow Jackets at 6 p.m., on Tuesday at Mill Creek Regional Park in the region semifinals.
    Statesboro won its first round region playoff matchup and earned a berth in the Class AAAA state playoffs last week as it swept a best-of-three series from Hephzibah by a combined score of 29-0.
    From here on out, the region playoffs will be a one game, winner-take-all format.
    The winner of tonight’s game will play either South Effingham or Cross Creek for the region championship Friday while the losers of both games will play a consolation game to determine the third and fourth seeds heading into the state tournament.
    With a chance to play for the region title at stake, both squads enter today’s game fully rested.
    Wayne County has a trio of top pitchers — J.D. Paul, Sid Royal, and Payton Phillips — and any might start for the Jackets.
    “We really aren’t sure who to expect,” SHS head coach Jim Simmons said. “Paul had our number last year, but all of them are big arms that we have to be prepared for.”
    Similarly, the Devils still haven’t decided who will start today’s game.
    Jordan Finch and Colin Chance are the leading candidates, but everyone will be available for Statesboro if needed.
    “(Finch and Chance) have done great for us in big spots,” Simmons said. “The best news is that everyone is ready and available. Blakely Brown is there at the end if we need him and we have a bunch of guys who have given us quality innings all year that we won’t be afraid to use.”
    Statesboro’s biggest weapon as the postseason rolls around is its consistency.
    Along with its stable of arms, the Devils boast a lineup that comes through from top to bottom with consistent contact and clutch hits, plus a defense that has been on top of its game for much of the season.
    “We really haven’t had many games where just one aspect of the game has had to carry us,” Simmons said. “With only a couple of exceptions, we’ve been able to count on solid all-around games from everyone this year.”
    No matter the pitching matchups or offensive production, a close game should be expected.
    Statesboro took the first of three regular season meetings on a walk-off home run by Jackson Ware. The Jackets pounded their way to an 8-7 win in eight innings in the second game before claiming a 5-1 win in the final meeting.
    “We’re definitely expecting a tough game again,” Simmons said. “I think both teams know each other very well and know what to expect. Anything can happen and we’re going to have to execute throughout the entire game if we want to win.”

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