A trio of Columbus-area schools will extend their seasons into the playoffs today as Brookstone, Columbus High and Harris County each play host to first round series.
In Class A, Brookstone entertains Metter in a 2 p.m. doubleheader. Also at 2 p.m., Arabia Mountain visits Columbus in Class AAA. In Class AAAA, Region 3-AAAA champion Harris County plays host to Mount Zion-Jonesboro in a 5 p.m. doubleheader.
Metter at Brookstone
Brookstone has beaten most of its opponents this season by outscoring them. However, that's not the way coach Vince Massey wants his team to approach the postseason.
"We've stressed that to get to this point, you have to pitch well, play good defense and compete at the plate," Massey said. "Our pitchers are going to have to throw the ball over the plate and give us a chance to be playmakers."
The Cougars (19-7), the Region 4-AA runner-up, host Metter (13-11) in what should be a match-up of programs with promising futures. Brookstone has just one senior starter. Metter, which returned seven starters this season, has only three senior starters.
The Tigers are making their first playoff appearance under second-
year coach Corey Collins.
Brookstone's young pitching staff, led by a pair of juniors, might be peaking at the right time. Lefty Max Williams and right-hander Jordan Waddell have pitched most of the innings. However, sophomore left-hander Eli Ussery has been solid during the past several weeks and expects to receive plenty of action.
"He just competes," Massey said. "He gives us a chance (to win)."
Massey hopes the offense can keep the pressure off his pitchers. His first four hitters -- freshman Matt Jones, juniors Tim Kennedy and Drew Lingo and senior Austin Pair -- "set the tone for the team."
"We've been able to outscore people this year," Massey said, "but I've seen our offense go cold too. That's how offense goes sometimes. That's why our pitchers have to keep getting better."
Mount Zion-Jonesboroat Harris County
Things couldn't be better for Harris County as the Tigers (20-5) welcome Mount Zion (13-11). They captured the Region 3-AAAA crown last week, they are playing at home, and they will play their first postseason game under their new lights.
"Home-field advantage is going to be big," said coach Steve Westmoreland, whose Tigers are 15-1 at home this year. "We like playing at home, and we feel comfortable playing there. But we've got to play better than we did in our last two games against Woodland. We were fortunate to win those two games in the region playoffs."
After last November's tornadoes damaged the school and part of the baseball complex, the Harris County Board of Education helped get lights installed on the field. Although the Tigers' 11-1 win two weeks ago over Dutchtown on Senior Night was classified as a night game, Westmoreland said the game concluded before it was dark.
"I thank the school superintendent, board and our athletic director for helping put us in position to host a first-round playoff game under the lights," Westmoreland said. "This will be our first true night game at our place."
Pitching will be key for the Tigers, whose top hurlers are seniors Payne Kosobucki and Cole Johnson. Harris also could use Cody Sheedy, Taylor Milner, Aaron Rogers and closer Jeremy Sanders, a side-armer who has five saves this year.
Sheedy, Fears and Kevin Shavers lead a potent lineup that has belted 24 homers.
Arabia Mountainat Columbus
Columbus coach Bobby Howard is known for heaping praise on his opponents. He believes today's opponent, Arabia Mountain, is a dangerous first-round foe.
"I was very impressed with them," Howard said. "They are well-coached and very athletic."
The Rams (15-9) have won four straight and are making their second straight postseason appearance. DeKalb County's newest high school played its first season in 2010.
After having their 10-game winning streak stopped in a 1-0 loss to Mill Creek, the Blue Devils (23-3) defeated Marist last Friday before closing the regular season with a 5-2 loss to Class AAAAA power Parkview last Saturday.
Columbus' final week of the regular season was filled with heavyweights. Howard wasn't pleased with his team losing two of its last three but believes those losses could help.
"That showed we're not invincible," he said. "You have to play the game the right way. If you don't, the game is going to beat you, much less the opponent."
Pitching has been the team's biggest strength, with Kyle Carter, Avery Seckinger, JT Phillips and Hunter Swilling leading the way. Howard hopes the offense continues to improve.
"We've got to get better with our situational hitting," he said. "Our averages are better than our run production."
History will be on the Blue Devils' side. The last time Columbus lost a first-round playoff series was in 1997, when they were swept by Jones County. Howard took a one-year hiatus that year, leading Middle Georgia College before returning to Columbus the following season.
All series best-of-3
Central at Enterprise (DH), 5:30 p.m.
Russell County at Spanish Fort (DH), 5 p.m.
Central at Enterprise (if game), 2 p.m.
Russell County at Spanish Fort (if game), 2 p.m.
GHSA FIRST ROUND
Arabia Mountain at Columbus (DH), 2 p.m.
Metter at Brookstone (DH), 2 p.m.
Mt. Zion at Harris County (DH), 5 p.m.
Arabia Mountain at Columbus (if game), 2 p.m.
Metter at Brookstone (if game), 2 p.m.
Mt. Zion at Harris County (if game), 2 p.m.