Region 4-AAA Tournament
Central and Haralson County will be in action with 7 p.m. first-round games Monday, where the top-seeded and Class AAA No. 6 Lady Lions (20-7) play host to Jackson, Atlanta, while the fourth-seeded Rebelettes (6-18) travel to Chapel Hill to face the No. 1E Lady Panthers (17-11) in Douglasville.
For Lady Lion coach Jimmy LeBlanc, his ball club took care of business in the regular season to reach this point and earn the No. 1 seed from the west sub-region. Now it’s a matter of finishing the job.
“We had a good bit of success against Jackson, so you’d like to think that we could get it done there. And Callaway, we were able to get them both times, but I think they showed that they can play and they competed with a lot of people, including us,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve been able to hit their pitching pretty well the first two times out. So you’ve got to feel pretty good about that.”
The winner of Monday’s 7 p.m. game at Central advances to face the winner of the 5 p.m. No. 2E Coretta Scott King/No. 3W Callaway contest on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Central. On the other side at Chapel Hill, No. 2W Rockmart squares off with No. 3E Douglass, with the winner facing the HC/Chapel Hill winner on Tuesday in Douglasville.
LeBlanc said earning one of the top two seeds and getting home-field advantage for the opening round of Class AAA state tournament is critical given that Region 4 matches up with Region 1, which are Savannah-area schools.
“Yeah, you talk about important. That’s brutally important. You’re talking about a four and a half, five-hour bus ride. It’s really important for us to be No. 1 or No. 2. You’re going to put yourself at an extreme disadvantage. That’s a long trip right there — I don’t care what you’re playing,” LeBlanc said.
Another concern is how the weather will hold up early in the week with rain in the forecast.
“It could really get complicated. I’m actually going to cover our infield and all of our dirt [Sunday],” LeBlanc said. “Worst-case scenario, we feel like we could play four games a day for three days to be able to get it all in. Hopefully, that’s not going to happen, because you’d have to go 2, 4, 6 and 8 [p.m.]. But, again, that’s worst-case scenario.”
Haralson County coach Lisa Warren could not be reached for comment as of press time Saturday evening.
Region 5-AAAA Tournament
Although Carrollton moved up a classification and into Region 5, it is still the reigning tournament champion from this bunch, and Lady Trojan coach Lisa Phillips has her team focused on repeating that feat in the upcoming week as the No. 1 seed from its sub-region.
“Obviously, after experiencing the region championship last year, that’s our goal to try to go down there and win it again,” Phillips said. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of good ball to make it happen.”
The Class AAAA No. 7 Lady Trojans (23-5) have a bye in the opening round and will most likely face No. 5 Columbus (22-4-1) on Monday at 6 p.m. at Shuford Park in LaGrange in the quarterfinal round.
And while a top-10 encounter that early in the region tournament isn’t ideal, it is what it is in this difficult field.
“We feel like we have one of the toughest regions. Last year we had all four teams make it out to the sweet 16. We had one leave, but we brought Alexander in and they’re pretty tough, as well. We feel like we have a tough way to get to the region championship,” Phillips said. “At the same time, we feel like we can.”
Carrollton, which already clinched a Class AAAA state playoff berth, has gotten a boost from the return of senior hurler Randi Phillips to the circle after the Columbus State commit had been held out of pitching duties in recent weeks due to a pulled muscle.
Lisa Phillips said with their No. 1 pitcher back and the development of freshman right-hander Katie Jones over the course of the season, it gives her squad two quality arms for the postseason.
“Absolutely. We knew Katie could throw the ball pretty well. It’s a difference in she doesn’t throw it quite as hard as Randi, but she has good movement on her pitches and has come in and done a great job. We have a lot of confidence in her that we probably didn’t have at the beginning of the season. So it’s been good for us and for her, as well,” Lisa Phillips said.
And after reaching the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs last season, the Lady Trojans are hopeful of securing another region crown and home field for the opening rounds of the state playoffs as a Class AAAA ball club.
“I’m just excited to get this part of the season started. That’s why we played all those other games is to get to this point. So I’m excited about getting that going,” Lisa Phillips said.
Region 6-A Tournament
Millie Grimes is in the process of testing the waters of the new Class A state playoff system that separates the public and private schools. Of course, the Mt. Zion coach would much rather see her team control its own postseason destiny by winning the Region 6-A Tournament.
The No. 3W Lady Eagles (15-10) open tourney play on Monday against No. 2E Walker in a 3 p.m. contest at Mt. Paran, where the format has changed this year with only the region tournament champions getting an automatic berth into the Class A state playoffs.
After that, it will come down to a power rankings system to fill out the rest of the field of 16 for the public school bracket. Mt. Zion was ranked No. 14 in the latest release of the GHSA’s Class A Public School Power rankings, which came out on Sept. 25.
“We’re in a position where I think we have a real good chance of making it to the state tournament, but we have to continue to play. This is just such a new thing. I’m just kind of scared to see how it all works,” Grimes said.
The best thing the Lady Eagles can do to help themselves is win as many ball games as possible this upcoming week and improve their chances of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2005.
“You’ve just got to win as many games as you can in the region tournament. If you win the region tournament, then you’re guaranteed. Otherwise, you just have to wait until everything is said and done and see how many public schools win their region and then how many spots are left to be filled,” Grimes said.
But if MZ plays up to its potential, Grimes is confident her squad will be state-bound following next week.
“I’m just hoping we continue to play good. I think the girls are excited and I’m expecting big things. I know we’re still young, but I think we’re very capable of playing with everybody in the tournament,” Grimes said.