That was quickly remedied, however, with Pope claiming last year’s Class AAAAA state championship and Mount Paran Christian closing out the season as the Class A private-school runner-up.
The Greyhounds’ title marked the fifth in eight years for at least one Cobb County teams, and with this year’s playoffs set to start Friday, several teams — including Pope and Mount Paran again — are hoping to extend the championship mark to six in nine years.
Mount Paran headlines a list of four region champions that includes Kennesaw Mountain, Allatoona and Sprayberry. Other postseason qualifiers are McEachern, North Cobb, Marietta, Walton, Lassiter, Pope and Walker.
Kennesaw Mountain secured the Region 4AAAAAA championship one day before the end of the season, while North Cobb snatched the No. 2 seed away from Marietta, on the final day of the season. The Blue Devils’ 3-2 loss to Campbell opened the door for North Cobb, which beat Pebblebrook to earn the right to host. Marietta dropped to the third seed.
McEachern got its wish for the No. 4 spot after beating Kennesaw Mountain and having Harrison beat Hillgrove.
“The kids were getting information here and there (about the Harrison-Hillgrove score),” McEachern coach Dan Torrenti said. “I found out around the fifth or sixth inning, I think. I didn’t know the score, but I got a wink and a smile from (boys basketball coach Mike Thompson).
“He drives our bus during the season and told me as I was heading to the dugout that we need to finish the game. I didn’t ask him any details after that, but took it as a good sign. We couldn’t give Kennesaw Mountain an inch at that point.”
Kennesaw Mountain will host Alcovy in a best-of-three series beginning with a doubleheader Friday. North Cobb will host Rockdale County, Marietta will travel to Luella and McEachern will visit Newton.
Walton, in the playoffs for the fourth straight season, is the No. 2 team from Region 5AAAAAA and will host Peachtree Ridge.
“We played well down the stretch and had an outside chance at winning the region,” Walton coach Shane Amos said. “Our pitching and defense have been doing a solid job, and we’re getting hot and timely hits when we need them. Peachtree Ridge is a good team, and we’ll need to continue to play solid baseball to win.”
No. 4 seed Lassiter returns to the postseason after a one-year absence and will visit Mountain View in the first round.
Allatoona failed to make the playoffs last season, one year after winning a school-record 27 games and reaching the third round of the Class AAA tournament. This season, the Buccaneers won the Region championship 5AAAAA and will host Creekview in the first round.
“Missing the playoffs last year was a shock to our system,” Allatoona coach Keith Hansen said. “It brought back a fire and a hunger to our guys, and it’s showed in how they’ve played. We never dreamed we’d be 24-2 and 19-1 in the region. That was never our goal. We wanted to make the playoffs because the wins mean nothing right now. It’s about staying focused and taking everything pitch by pitch.”
Region 7AAAAA champion Sprayberry won its first region title in more than a decade. The Yellow Jackets, who will host East Paulding, ended the regular season tied in the region standings with Pope and Sequoyah, but they won the tiebreak because of their cumulative record against the other tied teams.
“Experience level could play a factor for us in the playoffs,” said Sprayberry coach Philip Henderson, whose team last made the playoffs in 2010, meaning there are no players with postseason experience.
“But our region is tough. We’ve faced tough teams a lot, and we’ve been tested. I don’t know if the expectations on us are any higher than they’ve been during the season, but experience could play a part or it couldn’t.”
Pope has returned to defend its Class AAAAA title. As the No. 2 seed of Region 7AAAAA, it will host North Paulding.
“It’s always nice to have a chance,” Pope coach Jeff Rowland said. “The way the year was going, we really had to grind it out. We got hot at the right time, and we’ve given ourselves an opportunity at another shot at (a championship). I’m happy for the kids, and I hope they get that chance again.”
Mount Paran won the Region 6A title for the second straight year. The Eagles finished the regular season seeded second in the power ratings and will learn its opponent today after any appeals are heard by the Georgia High School Association.
Walker, which missed the postseason last year, is seeded 11th and has a strong case at staying among the top 16. Whitefield Academy is 17th, just outside the final qualifying spot.