Lassiter, Kennesaw Mountain, Harrison, Hillgrove and Pope are still alive following last week’s first-round action. The second round of the state playoffs, which are all best-of-three series, begins with a doubleheader on Wednesday, and then, if necessary, a decisive third game Thursday.
Region 4AAAAAA champion Kennesaw Mountain (24-6) will host Region 1AAAAAA runner-up Tift County (26-3). The Lady Mustangs, who finished as the Class AAAAAA state runner-up a year ago, are aiming for their fifth trip to the state finals in six years — missing out only in 2010. The Lady Blue Devils have made the state playoffs in each of the last five years — dating back to 2009 — but have been knocked out each time before reaching the finals.
Kennesaw Mountain started the season winning 13 straight contests and 17 of its first 18 contests. Although the Lady Mustangs have since won seven of their last 12, they are still the favorite to take the series.
Lassiter, on the other hand, has a much tougher draw. The Region 5AAAAAA champion Lady Trojans will host defending Class AAAAAA state champion Archer (23-10) in their best-of-three second round series.
The Lady Tigers, the runner-up from Region 8AAAAAA, beat Lassiter in a winners’ bracket match in Columbus during last year’s finals. The Lady Trojans missed the state finals in 2011, won it all in 2007 and placed fourth in 2010.
“We faced Archer in Columbus last year,” Lassiter coach Jason Campbell said. “We know they’re one of the better teams in the state. We’ll have our hands full. They hit and pitch really well and they don’t make a lot of mistakes, so we know it won’t be easy. But at the same time, we hope we don’t make it easy on them either.”
Hillgrove (24-6), the Region 4AAAAAA runner-up, will also be facing a team it is familiar with as it travels to Valdosta to face Lowndes. The Region 1AAAAAA champion Vikettes (26-3-1), who have won 14 games in a row, have a history of postseason appearances and last made the state finals in 2010. The Lady Hawks, however, eliminated them in the second round of last year’s state playoffs. Hillgrove is trying to reach the finals for the third straight season.
Harrison (24-7) has won seven straight in reaching the second round of the playoffs. The Region 4AAAAAA No. 3 seed Lady Hoyas are aiming for their third state finals showing in four seasons, but they’ll have to get through Region 3AAAAAA champion East Coweta (26-8) on the road to do so. The Lady Indians have played in the state finals in Columbus for the past eight seasons.
“It’s a tough matchup, but we’re no stranger to them,” Harrison coach Matt Jones said. “We’ve seen them in the postseason before. They won’t beat themselves, and they have very good pitchers and they get timely hits.
“Fortunately, we’ve played well on the road this season, and we’re playing good softball right now. We’re pitching with confidence, but our biggest issue is not making crucial mistakes and not getting big hits when we need them against good teams. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Pope (26-9) has won 18 of its last 20 games in reaching the second round. The Region 7AAAAA No. 3 seed Lady Greyhounds, who finished as the Class AAAAA state runner-up a season ago, visit Region 8AAAAA champion Heritage-Conyers (26-5). Pope beat the Patriots in the second round last year to make its first trip to Columbus in program history.
“Last year I felt like both of us should have made it to Columbus and I feel the same way this year,” Lady Greyhounds coach Chris Turco said. “These are all tough matchups in the state playoffs, and it was huge for us to get out of our first-round series with South Paulding.
“Not only was that the first time Pope’s won a Game 3 in the playoffs, it was the first time we won a playoff series on the road. Those are big check marks for us in our history. We’ll need to play error free ball and our hitters will need to execute if we want to do it again. We’re pitching well, and I like our chances.”