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SEB Softball clinches region championship
SEB Softball
Southeast Bulloch's Gracie Burgin, left, avoids the tag of Liberty County catcher Emma Kirk to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning of game two on Wednesday, Oct. 14. With SEB's victories, the Jackets clinched a region championship and a top seed in the state tournament.

Early in the season it looked as though the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets would be the only team in Region 3-AAA to play softball this season. The Savannah schools decided to opt out, and just play among themselves, forfeiting their region games to Southeast Bulloch. Liberty County waited, and finally cancelled their games with the Jackets. 

The other teams finally decided to play in the region tournament, and give Southeast Bulloch a bye to the championship game. That was decided quickly on Wednesday as the Jackets won both games with Liberty County via the run rule, 15-0 in game one and 9-0 in game two.

The championship is the Jackets fifth straight, and despite only playing a 13-game regular season head coach Aimee Civalier thought the team looked pretty sharp on Wednesday, particularly Alana Barnard on the mound, who pitched a pair of shutouts including a no-hitter in the opening game.

“We were just excited to get the chance to come out here and play,” said Civalier. “We didn’t know what to expect since we never played Liberty in the regular season. Alana shut them down on the mound, and we hit the ball pretty well. I’m really proud of them.”

Game one saw the Jackets jump on the Panthers early and often. Southeast Bulloch opened up a 6-0 lead in the first, added four runs in the second, and then closed things out with a five-run third inning. Makinley Fields, Shylah Thames and Megan Lee all came through with big hits and RBIs in the opening game.

“I felt like we really looked sharp in the opener,” said Civalier. “Alana set the tone on the mound, and then I thought we really hit the ball well off a pretty good pitcher. They didn’t put a lot of balls in play, but when they did we made the plays in the field.”

In game two the Panthers struggled a little more on the mound, and the Jackets didn’t have as many opportunities at the plate. Kelsey McDuffie came through with a 2-run single in the second, and Lee and Fields continued to swing a hot stick with a couple RBIs. Barnard continued to shine on the mound with another shutout, but did allow two hits. 

“We may have lost a little focus in that second game,” said Civalier. “That is something we have reminded them of with the state playoffs coming up next week. We can’t take a play, or an inning off, or it may cost us.”

Barnard ended up going eight innings, allowing only two hits, and no walks, while striking out 14 batters. Up next the Jackets open the state playoffs at home Tuesday against the No. 4 seed from Region 2-AAA.

“ We have been in this position in each of the last five seasons. When we have been focused and ready we have done well, but when we take the other team for granted we know we can get beaten. The region we play is very competitive and we had better be ready for a good team.”

In other softball action the Statesboro Blue Devils 2020 season came to a close as they dropped a 2-0 decision to Richmond Hill in their region tournament at Effingham County. The Blue Devils lost 9-4 to Glynn Academy in the opening round of the tournament Tuesday.

“We just couldn’t get our bats moving,” said Statesboro Coach Kaylee Coleman. We put the ball in play, but just hit it directly to someone. We had several opportunities with runners in scoring position, but we just couldn’t pull through when we needed to.”

The loss ends a 4-year streak of advancing to the state playoffs for the Blue Devils.

Elsewhere the Bulloch Academy Gators will be playing in the GISA State Final Four Saturday in Perry as they take on defending state champs Westfield. Saturday’s games are scheduled for 12 and 2:00. The “if” game would be played Monday at 3:00.