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Underdog SHS set to face Ware

    It hasn’t been the smoothest of sailing for the Statesboro Lady Blue Devils softball team this fall, but as the postseason begins, they have what everyone wants come this time of year — a chance to keep on playing.
    On Thursday, the Devils (3-17, 2-6 Region 3-AAAAA) will travel to Waycross to take on Ware County in the first round of the region playoffs. The teams will play a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. If necessary, a third game will decide the series Friday afternoon in Waycross.
    The winner will advance to the state playoffs while the loser will be done for the season.
    “The bottom line is that if you don’t at least make it to the region playoffs, then you have no chance at all,” SHS coach Jim Simmons said. “We’ve got a couple of tough games ahead of us, but the girls are excited for the opportunity.”
    Statesboro’s record certainly doesn’t fit the resume of a playoff contender, but credit the Devils for finding success when they needed it.
    With perennial powers Effingham County, South Effingham and Richmond Hill all residing in their sub-region, the Devils were working against a stacked deck.
    Statesboro was swept in the home-and-home season series by those three opponents.
    The Devils lost to fellow sub-region rival Bradwell Institute in Statesboro’s preseason tournament, but took both regular season matchups against Bradwell to claim the sub-region’s final slot in the region playoffs.
    “I’m so proud of our girls for getting those wins,” Simmons said. “To lose that first game and bounce back shows that we’ve been growing. That was our biggest goal at the beginning of the season. We played much better in the two sub-region games, and now we get to play some more.”
    For all that effort and improvement, Statesboro will be rewarded with a series against the Lady Gators (13-7, 6-2).
    Ware County enters the postseason having won seven of its last eight contests.
    Offense will certainly be at a premium for Statesboro as the Gators have tossed five shutouts during their current streak. But Ware hasn’t been killing the ball itself, scoring four runs or fewer during that same span.
    The pressure of keeping the Devils’ season alive will fall on two of Statesboro’s freshmen stars.
    McKenny Corbett and Cassidy Stevens have pitched well against older competition throughout the season and will have to do so again. Danielle Wiggins is also lying in wait in the bullpen with a change of pace arm that will look to keep the Gators off balance.
    “It’s the region playoffs, but we just need to go out and focus on playing smart,” Simmons said. “We have young girls here for the first time and some older girls who have worked hard to help get us here. We want to enjoy it, but we want to focus and play well.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.