The Lady Mustangs have already assured themselves of a state tournament berth by virtue of having the best record in Region 4AAAAAA, but they must face South Cobb in a best-of-three series for the region title starting Tuesday at Kennesaw Mountain.
“We’re excited to be in a position to get to host and play for a region championship,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Lisa Chapman said. “We want to host throughout the (first two rounds of the playoffs).”
The Lady Mustangs (23-3-2) have six seniors in a starting lineup that has been paramount to the program’s success this season.
And, on top the opportunity to win a state title, Kennesaw Mountain is playing to establish history for Chapman. The longtime coach has 299 career victories.
“I’m one game away from No. 300,” Chapman said. “It sure would be nice to get two wins and get to 301 on Tuesday, especially when the parents know and have been talking about it for awhile. I’d like to just take care of it on Tuesday.”
But more than helping a coach reach a career benchmark, Kennesaw Mountain has even bigger goals for the remainder of its season.
“I don’t think there’s pressure to win it,” Chapman said of the state championship. “I think we put a lot of pride in being able to compete at a high level, day in and day out, and giving us a chance to play for a state championship. We’ve played a tough schedule this season, and we hope that has prepared us for a chance to get to the state finals again.
“We only graduated one senior from last year’s team and finished fourth in the state, and that’s as deep a run as we’ve ever had at Kennesaw Mountain. To get them hungry from the get-go and have a chance to play for a state championship is something we’ve had on our minds since this past summer.”
Although Kennesaw Mountain beat South Cobb 8-0 in the teams’ only meeting of the regular season, Lady Eagles coach Mark Collins maintains that his players will have a loose attitude going into Tuesday’s doubleheader.
“Obviously, we want to compete, but the main thing is that we’re the underdog,” South Cobb coach Mark Collins said. “We always have been. We don’t have a JV (team). Most of the season, we’ve had 12-14 players. We’re just happy setting the school record for wins (in a season). This is the second time we’ve made the playoffs. We’ve had some girls that have had some really good years.”
South Cobb (19-6) is in the state playoffs for just the second time in its history, and regardless of its result against Kennesaw Mountain, the Lady Eagles will host the first playoff game in school history as well.
“We’re happy to be hosting,” Collins said of the state playoffs. “It’s the first time we’ve ever hosted. We’re playing the No. 1 in the state for the region championship. It will be a good warmup for whoever we pull in the first round in state. It will be a great way for us to prepare. We’re just happy going into Tuesday that we get to host. We’re guaranteed at least second, so we will be pretty relaxed.
In Region 7AAAAA, Pope will also be playing for a region championship when it hosts Creekview in a best-of-three series. The Lady Greyhounds (19-5, 8-2) earned the top seed by virtue of their victories over Creekview and Sequoyah, and they finished the regular season winning 13 of their final 14 games.
The rest of Region 7AAAAA will vie for the other two playoff seeds in a double-elimination tournament at Al Bishop Park in Marietta.
Elsewhere in the Class AAAAA state playoffs, one slot will be filled by Allatoona, which has already clinched a berth by reaching the semifinals of its region tournament. The Lady Buccaneers will host North Paulding in Monday’s semifinal.
In Region 5AAAAAA, Lassiter beat Roswell 7-0 on Saturday to clinch a state playoff berth, behind a shutout from Mackenzie Kayler, who also finished 2-for-3 at the plate with a solo home run — her second of the season.
The third-ranked Lady Trojans (26-2-1) will face Cherokee on Monday in the region semifinals. If Lassiter wins that game, then it would head on to face the winner of the Etowah-Milton semifinal and guarantee a chance to host a playoff game in the state tournament.
Cherokee, however, was one of the two teams to hand Lassiter a defeat this season, something the Lady Trojans have not forgotten.
“We’d like to walk away from there with a win and play for a region championship, and possibly get the No. 1 seed,” Lassiter coach Jason Campbell said. “One of our two losses was to Cherokee in extra innings. They’re a good team with a good pitcher. … We’re focused on what we need to do and just look at Cherokee as someone that we have to get through. We have a little redemption to pay and, hopefully, we can do that.”
Although Kennesaw Mountain and South Cobb are facing off for the Region 4AAAAAA title, there are still two other playoff spots open as that tournament begins this week.
North Cobb earned a bye and will host the semifinal and final rounds of a double-elimination tournament for the region’s remaining state playoff seeds. The Lady Warriors, however, will first face the winner of the first-round Marietta-Pebblebrook game.
The other two first-round matchups will be held at Hillgrove. The host Lady Hawks will host Campbell, while Harrison will play McEachern.
The county’s four Class A programs — Mount Paran Christian, North Cobb Christian, Walker and Whitefield Academy — will compete in the Region 6A tournament, which begins Monday.