SALEM AT FORSYTH CENTRAL
When: Game 1 and 2 on Friday, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Game 3 on Saturday, 1 p.m. (if necessary).
Records, Rankings, Seedings: Salem is 15-7, unranked in Class AAAAA and the No. 4 seed from Region 8; Central is 16-8, unranked in Class AAAAA and the No. 1 seed from Region 7.
Coaches: Bobby Link, Salem; Kevin McCollum, Central.
What to know: Central might be more playoff ready than the big boys in Class AAAAAA, mainly because the Bulldogs play three-game series, as opposed to two, in region play. Most recently, the Bulldogs handled Creekview in the championship series before playing an out-of-class game against Pope. Central’s offense has a lot of versatility and can score in the back of the lineup, while pitchers Reed Clark and Logan Howard give the team two proven winners on the mound. The Bulldogs will have to take Salem very seriously considering the team from Conyers has won six of its last eight. Expect the home cooking at Central to make a difference as well.
What’s next: The winner faces the Jones County-Harris County winner.
MILTON AT LAMBERT
When: Game 1 and 2 on Friday, 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Game 3 on Saturday, 3 p.m. (if necessary).
Records, Rankings, Seedings: Milton is 16-5, ranked No. 3 in Class AAAAAA and the No. 4 seed from Region 5; Lambert is 19-7, ranked No. 6 in Class AAAAAA and the No. 1 seed from Region 6.
Coaches: Joey Ray, Milton; Drew Ferrer, Lambert.
What to know: When Lambert is at its best, it’s nearly impossible to beat. The Longhorns had won by overwhelming margins in nearly all of their region games until hitting a road block in a double header last week against South and West, who collectively swept the Longhorns at home. Lambert responded with a 13-2 win against Centennial and a 19-4 result at Habersham Central. The early losses and most recent losses for Lambert could be a blessing in disguise, as the pressure has lowered considerably since the preseason attention as the defending national champion. Seth Beer and Jeremy Johnson give Lambert the perfect combination of speed and power needed in the front of the lineup. Lambert has elite players; it just needs to perform at an elite level.
What’s next: The winner faces the Westlake-Kennesaw Mountain winner.
North Forsyth at Pope
When: Game 1 and 2 on Friday, 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Game 3 on Saturday, 11 p.m. (if necessary).
Records, Rankings, Seedings: North is 16-9-1, unranked in Class AAAAAA and the No. 3 seed from Region 6; Pope is 18-7, ranked No. 5 in Class AAAAAA and the No. 2 seed from Region 5.
Coaches: Jim Cahill, North; Jeff Rowland, Pope.
What to know: What might help North more than anything is the fact the Raiders have won half of their games this season by a run or less. They’re battle tested and built for the big moments, and they have the starting pitching to keep the opponent’s run output at a minimum. The starting pitching rotation of Dakota Chalmers, Caleb Dixon and Matthew Heard gives North the chance in any game, but don’t be surprised if their offense continues to trend upward. In their last seven games the Raiders have averaged 7.8 runs. Chalmers, heading to the University of Georgia in the fall, has survived through some rough outings this season, but his potential is through the roof. Hopefully the playoffs is where he dials in.
What’s next: The winner faces the Marietta-East Coweta winner.
SOUTH FORSYTH AT WALTON
When: Game 1 and 2 on Friday, 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Game 3 on Saturday, 1 p.m. (if necessary).
Records, Rankings, Seedings: South is 14-12, unranked in Class AAAAAA and the No. 4 seed from Region 6; Walton is 22-3, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAA and the No. 1 seed from Region 5.
Coaches: Russ Bayer, South; Shane Amos, Walton.
What to know: South Forsyth is undoubtedly the biggest underdog in the county. The War Eagles turned it on just enough, just soon enough to squeak into the playoffs ahead of John’s Creek. South had a tough season of ups and downs that included struggles in region play, but its April 17 win at Lambert, to the tune of 7-3, started a 3 of 4 winning finish to the season. South will need everything to hit on all cylinders to take down mighty Walton, ranked No. 1 in the state with a 22-3 overall record. Alec Kliphouse should be a factor on the mound and at the plate, along with Justin Graczyk.
What’s next: The winner faces the Hillgrove-Newnan winner.
ETOWAH AT WEST FORSYTH
When: Game 1 and 2 on Friday, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Game 3 on Saturday, 1:30 p.m. (if necessary).
Records, Rankings, Seedings: Etowah is 11-9-2, ranked No. 8 in Class AAAAAA and the No. 3 seed from Region 6; West is 17-7, unranked in Class AAAAAA and the No. 2 seed from Region 6.
Coaches: David Childress, Etowah; Mike Pruitt, West.
What to know: West is as well rounded as can be heading into postseason play. The Wolverines are on a hot-streak, having won 10 of their last 11 games—the lone loss being a 16-3 result against Lambert in a game that had been pushed back twice. During that stretch West has outscored its opponents by an average of four runs, and has scored at least eight runs six times since March 30. Chris Cullen and Alec Wilson, along with pitcher Addison Albright, give West college-bound talent that should benefit it in the playoffs. Don’t let Etowah’s near .500 record fool you; the Eagles are ranked for a reason.
What’s next: The winner faces the Campbell-Harrison winner.