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Region baseball: 'It's going to be a dogfight the whole way'

Top five teams in 1-AAAAA separated by two games

By DAVID MITCHELL

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.com

Region baseball races are heating up around the area, and none is hotter than the one going on in Region 1-AAAAA.

Standings shift daily, and any team one through five has a legitimate opportunity to win the region. And that even excludes Shaw, which despite having six region losses has shown the ability to contend with any of the other five.

Nearly every coach in contention had the same outlook for the second half of the region slate.

"There are five or six teams that can win this region, so any win you can get is big," Columbus' Chad Mathis said after a win over Northside on Tuesday. "It's going to be a dogfight the whole way."

Harris County's Steve Westmoreland said it doesn't matter how many losses a team has right now, any one of the five could get hot down the stretch.

"It's an everyday thing. It's going to change throughout the season," he said. "It could be us getting on a run, it could be Hardaway getting on a run, it could be Columbus on their run. But if you don't come to the park every day mentally prepared to play seven innings, it could be tough on you."

Take, for example, this week in which the order of the top five has changed on a daily basis.

On Tuesday, Columbus defeated Northside to improve its record to a region-best 6-1, where it still stands as of Saturday. Hardaway is next in line at 5-3, but it had fallen as far as fourth after a loss to Harris County on Thursday. LaGrange started the region 1-3, but has won four straight and is currently tied with Hardaway at 5-3 in second place. Harris County was in fourth, moved to second after Thursday's win, and dropped back to fourth after a loss on Friday. At 4-3, it is essentially tied with 5-4

Northside.

Anyone can do the math. There are five teams on the list and only four spots for the postseason, which means that at least one very good team is going to be on the outside looking in.

"In this region, nothing comes easy," Hardaway's Chris Gilstrap said after a win on Friday. "It's going to take a lot of work and a little luck to be one of those four teams."

Columbus and LaGrange are new to the region this year after reclassification. Columbus finished in second place in its old region last year after winning 11 straight region titles. Hardaway and Harris County have traded region titles in 1-AAAAA the past two years, respectively.

Elsewhere

In Region 2-AAA, Jordan has started off on a 7-2 clip in region play, but still sits two games behind Jackson and Rutland in the loss column. Both teams are undefeated in region play. The good new for the Red Jackets is that they are in better than good position for a playoff berth, as the rest of the region has at least four losses so far this season.

Jordan faces Rutland on April 7 and 10 and Jackson the week after that.

Brookstone leads the pack in Region 4-A, sporting an undefeated 3-0 record in region play.

Schley County is a game behind, Hawkinsville and Pacelli two back in the loss column.

Despite the region records, Pacelli still sits four spots ahead of Brookstone in the most recent Class A-private power rankings.

The Vikings are eighth, on the border for a home playoff game. Brookstone is ranked 12th.

In Class A, region champions are guaranteed a playoff spot, while the rest of the field is determined by power rankings.

In GICAA, Calvary Christian is 11-3 and undefeated in region play, the only undefeated team left in Division-I South.

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