And while both teams are ranked in the top five, neither are actually No. 1 seeds, with the Lady Braves (29-5) rolling through the first two rounds of the state playoffs as a No. 2 seed and the Lady Red Raiders (28-6) being the No. 3 seed out of Region 2, which has three teams still alive in the elite eight, including Jeff Davis and Vidalia.
But the way third-year Heard County coach Matt Hornsby looks at it, the rankings are meaningless at this point. Because everybody in Columbus is going to be good — now it’s just a matter of seeing who survives the double-elimination tournament come Saturday afternoon.
“Our whole goal was just to make it to Columbus. Just because, anything can happen once you’re there,” Hornsby said. “We play a tournament down there early in the year kind of for that reason. It’s a good little tournament. And if you play well, you tell them, ‘Look, in two months there isn’t any reason we shouldn’t be back.’ And then that way when we get down there, the fields are really hard down there, I think it’s going to help us having played down there to let the girls know how hard the infield is.”
Heard County is in the elite eight for the first time since 2006 and only the second time in program history, according to Hornsby. The Lady Brave coach is confident his team has what it takes to earn the first state title in school history — even with such a young starting lineup.
“Seeing how we’re starting four freshmen in our lineup — we’ve only got three seniors — it’s going to be big for them just making it down there because they’re still going to have three years left,” Hornsby said.
Hornsby said Bacon County has a pitcher that hits her spots well and a pair of hitters in the lineup that are as good as any in Columbus this week.
“Other than that, I know that they’ve got a lot of other girls that are going to put it in play, so we’ve got to make the plays,” he said.
Heard County has kept things pretty simple at practice this week in hopes of keeping everyone rested and healthy for what it hopes is a long stretch of action over the next three days.
“We’ve got a few that are banged up a little bit from last week. We’ve just got to go down there and play like we’ve played all year and we’ll be fine,” Hornsby said.
The Lady Braves have been led in the circle by freshman standout Jordan Watson, who has won all four playoff games to this point, yielding just two runs during that span.
Hornsby said despite his team’s youth, he doesn’t expect nerves to be a factor once it steps onto the diamond this afternoon.
“Actually, [Watson] and our shortstop won the national championship out in California with their Atlanta Vipers travel ball team. So as far as tight situations and playing against good teams and maybe having the other team taking a lead on you or whatever, it doesn’t faze her and it doesn’t faze our whole team,” Hornsby said.
“I mean, we always kind of joke when somebody takes the lead early. We’ll all get in the huddle and say, ‘And?’ Like, ‘And? What else?’ It doesn’t faze them. They just know that we’ve got one of the better lineups in the state and that we can score with anybody.”