Region 1-AAAAA baseball play begins this week

Prior to the start of the baseball season, Northside High catcher Bryce Delevie highlighted the concern many teams in Region 1-AAAAA must face.

In short, he said that many people outside the Patriots program doubt their chances of even making the postseason. That, despite a talented roster, a deep region may keep them on the outside, looking in come season's end.

It's not a problem specific to just Northside. The region has a number of contenders and only four playoff spots to give away.

Region play between these talented teams gets started in earnest this week with a couple matchups featuring contenders.

Harris County is an experienced bunch and perhaps the slight favorite heading into the season. It won a region title in the old Region 1-AAAAA last year, before reclassification added teams like LaGrange, Shaw and Columbus to the mix.

With eight seniors, five of whom have signed scholarships to play at the next level, the Tigers appear more than qualified to make a run at a second straight region championship. A 5-1 start to the season has backed up that possibility.

Hardaway was another team in the mix for the region last year, and a 6-0 start to this season indicates that it will once again be among the contenders.

It has a couple of live arms like Tony Locey and Trevon Dorsey to hang its hat on, and the bats can explode in any game. So far this year, the Hawks have outscored opponents 48-12.

Northside was also in the mix the past two seasons and, despite what Delevie said about doubters outside the program, will undoubtedly be in contention again this season.

Under new head coach Dee Miller, the Patriots have gotten off to a 3-1 start with wins over Newnan, Troup County and Pope, two of which played in the state tournament a year ago.

Shaw and Columbus are new to the region this year. The former is a team with a once-bright tradition that is clawing its way back into relevance.

The Raiders experienced a renaissance of sorts last season, winning six region games after going winless the year before.

Already this season, they are off to a 4-1 start and could have a shot at one of the four seeds should the ball bounce their way more times than not.

And, of course, there is the elephant in the room -- or Blue Devil, as it were. Columbus High has the brightest tradition of any team in the region and likely the entire state.

Despite a pair of down seasons by its standards, Columbus is always a favorite in any region race, having won 11 straight prior to a second-place finish last season.

The Blue Devils have been spotlighted over the past week because of former coach Bobby Howard's abrupt resignation, but the roster is still strong and it is unlikely the team will be satisfied with just a playoff berth.

"I'm not letting this ship sink," interim coach Chad Mathis said on Friday after his team dropped a close 2-1 contest to Brookwood.

With so many teams in contention, it's possible the region will come down to the final weeks. Mathis, Miller and Hardaway coach Chris Gilstrap have all acknowledged the intense race they have ahead of themselves.

"Nothing comes easy in this region," Mathis said. "Everyone's got a good team."