Lower seeds making mark in postseason

Posted 5/11/19

Hart County, who finished as the No. 3 seed in Region 8-3A, will meet Pike County

in the Class 3A semifinal round on May 14


Lower seeds making mark in baseball postseason

The usual suspects are here – Parkview, Pope, Loganville, Locust Grove, Blessed Trinity, North Hall, Jeff Davis, Gordon Lee, Schley County, Tattnall Square, Savannah Christian and Wesleyan – teams who have won at least one state baseball championship in the past five years.

Then there are the usual contenders who deep annual runs in the playoffs.

Then there are several new faces who are lower seeds but are still playing as the Georgia High School Association begins its semifinal round on May 14-15. (Note: Class 1A Public and Private classifications seed their teams 1-24 based on power rankings. Classes 7A-2A have eight regions in each classification who send four representatives to the postseason.)

In Class 4A, Northside-Columbus is making its first trip to the semifinal round in the school’s 17-year history. The Patriots finished as the No. 3 seed from Region 1-4A.

Northside isn’t the lowest seeded team still playing in the Class 4A classification. That honor belongs to Denmark, Forsyth County’s newest high school, who snagged the final seed from the rugged Region 7-4A and has been the classification’s “Cinderella” story. The Danes are in their first year of existence.

In Class 3A, Hart County finished as the No. 3 seed in Region 8-3A. Yet the Bulldogs have pulled off two big shockers, upsetting defending Class 3A state champion Lovett and Region 6-3A champion Ringgold in the second round before sweeping Region 1 champion Cook last week in the quarterfinals.

In Class 1A Public, Bowdon struggled for most of the season, but they snagged the 14th seed out of the 24 schools who made the playoffs in the classification and have upended Charlton County, Baconton Charter and Clinch County to advance.

Then in Class 1A Private, Hebron Christian was seeded 20th, but they have swept Brookstone and Region 8-1A champion Lakeview Academy before upending Calvary Day in three games in the quarterfinals.

Welcome to the state baseball playoffs, where the unexpected can happen in any round.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of these guys,” Hebron Christian coach Ben Drust told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “They’ve battled their butts off and overcame so much adversity in this series, and I’m excited to go watch them compete in the final four next week.”

Hebron has knocked off the No. 13, No. 4 and No. 5 seeds to make the semifinals. Drust and the Lions are making their deepest run in the postseason since 2016 when Hebron Christian finished as the state runner-up. They will meet the same team that denied them the state title in 2016 – top-seeded and top-ranked Tattnall Square.

Bowdon continues to roll though the playoffs and has knocked off the No. 19 seed (Charlton County), No. 3 seed (Baconton Charter) and the No. 6 seed (Clinch County) to reach the semifinals for the second straight season. The Red Devils' semifinal opponent will be top-seeded and top-ranked Gordon Lee, whom Bowdon met in the semifinals last season. Both teams compete in Region 6-1A.

Hart County is making its first trip to the semifinals since 2014, but the Bulldogs have never won a state baseball championship. Hart coach Josh Osborne said faith has been the backbone of the team’s success this season.

“I really believe the Lord has shown up for us and I have shared that with our players,” Osborne said. “When we played Franklin County, one of our pitchers went down with an injury. At the very moment, the Lord put the story of Gideon on my mind. I told them that next week that the Lord has us and will carry us. We studied Judges 6-8 and literally kept believing and still believe the Lord has his hand on us. The Monday after we played Lovett, we had an o.k. practice and I was discouraged. I went to my son’s ball game and was talking to the Lord the whole game. Tired, discouraged and wondering, I got home and turned the Braves game on just to veg out a little bit. A guy for Colorado hits a double. He calls time and right there in the screen was "Gideon Story”.

“I didn't share that with anyone that week except my wife and my assistant coach. That following week, Day 2 series with Ringgold, I woke up and read where Joshua woke up early and mustered his men before the second time they were battling Ai. I sent the kids that picture and told them and continued to tell them to watch the Lord fight for us and he is with us. I have no doubt in my mind that all of this occurring is nothing short of God's hand at work. To even think I or any player has any way of being the guy, I would have to say that's incorrect. This playoff run is totally because of the Lord and his favor.”

Hart County will play its fourth straight series on the road when they travel to Zebulon to meet Pike County in the state semifinals.

Denmark has perhaps been the biggest surprise. The school plucked coach David Smart from LaGrange last year, and the decision has proved dividends for the Danes. After leading LaGrange to the Class 4A semifinals two years ago at LaGrange High, Smart has Denmark playing a familiar opponent in Blessed Trinity in the semifinals. The two schools compete in Region 7-4A.

“Our region was so tough,” Smart said. “We started off with Blessed Trinity, Marist, Flowery Branch, then Chestatee. White County, Jim Waites has done a great job there and Chad (Sage) has done well at West Hall. We knew it was going to a fight just for us to be in the top four (to make the playoffs). But we all preached at the very beginning that if we can get out of this region, we will be battle-tested and prepared. I think we had to win five of our last six to get into the playoffs and that’s when we started playing playoff baseball and the guys starting playing with a sense of urgency.”

Denmark has swept Region 6 champion Northwest Whitfield and St. Pius X in the first two rounds, then they needed three games to eliminate West Laurens in the quarterfinals last week.

Northside-Columbus hasn’t seen a Game 3 in the postseason. The Patriots have swept Eastside and Perry in the first two rounds, then they took down perennial state power Cartersville in a two-game quarterfinal sweep last week.

While many of the same faces are in the semifinals, some new ones have joined the baseball party.

And they won’t have an issue crashing it.