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SEB, Screven go for state titles
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    BROOKLET — For the third year in a row, the Southeast Bulloch Lady Yellow Jackets are in the Elite 8 of the Class AA State Playoffs.
    Seniors DeAnn Lewis and Jamie Bohannon are no strangers to the playoffs, and junior pitcher Megan Barnwell — Region 3-AA leader in strikeouts and ERA — has been at the top of her game.
    The Jackets out-scored their opposition 15-0 on their way to advancing through the winner’s bracket, including a 3-0 shutout against Region 2-AA No. 1 seed Savannah Christian. SEB coach Aimee Civalier feels as though her team is playing at a high level.
    “Our defense played well,” said Civalier, “and we came up with the clutch hits when we needed them. Megan is pitching as well as she has all season.”
    Southeast will take on Rutland, the No. 1 seed out of Region 5-AA, at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Columbus Softball Complex in Columbus, Ga. Because Rutland is coming out of the North Sectional loser’s bracket, Civalier feels that her team is at an advantage. After dropping the first game of sectionals to No. 4 seed Rockmart, the Hurricanes clawed their way through the bottom bracket to earn a spot with the final eight.
    “(Because Rutland is) out of the loser’s bracket, so we’re in a better position than we were in the past,” said the Jacket coach. “We faced Morgan County (in 2005) and then Greater Atlanta Christian (in 2006).”
    A win against the Hurricanes will have Southeast Bulloch playing the winner of the Buford/Savannah Christian matchup at 6 p.m., Thursday, and a loss would put them in the loser’s bracket — something SEB would love to avoid — against the loser of that same matchup on Friday at 11 a.m.
    The other teams remaining in the quest for the state championship are Berrien, LaFayette, GAC and region rival Screven County, who is 3-1 against the Jackets this season.

Screven eyeing state title
    A 4-3 win over Vidalia brought Screven County into the Elite 8 of the Class AA State Softball Playoffs via the losers bracket, and the No.1 seed (Region 3-AA) Gamecocks aren’t done yet.
    The path won’t be easy. Screven will take on Greater Atlanta Christian at 2 p.m. at the Columbus Softball Complex in Columbus, Ga. Thursday, and with a pitching staff that strikes out 15 every seven innings, SCHS will have to be on top of its offensive game.
    “When you get to this level, there’s no easy games,” said Screven coach Billy Pollock. “Everybody’s there for a reason. There’s no free walks into this. There were a lot of good teams right now that were sent home. They just didn’t make the key plays when they had to. We did that, and we’ve been preaching to the girls, ‘We’re good, but we can always strive to get better.’”
    Having faced the toughest pitcher in the region — Southeast Bulloch’s Megan Barnwell — four times this season, the Gamecocks are no strangers to tough pitching. The gameplan won’t change.
    “We’re going to put the ball in play,” said Pollock. “Hopefully we’ll stay in our game and come out on top. Any time early in the season when we can face the good pitching that has developed in the southeast, that constantly helps.”
    The Gamecocks have a starting pitcher who has had to grow up in a hurry. Freshman Marla Thompson has been on the mound all year, and has stepped it up in the playoffs, including a 12-0 shutout against Fitzgerald.
    With two teams from the region in the Elite 8, Pollock is glad that the area is well represented in the state playoffs.
    “Hopefully Southeast Bulloch and Screven County will represent Region 3-AA well,” Pollock said, “and go and at least win a couple games.”

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.