Seven have qualified so far this season, but unlike previous campaigns, one thing stood out as the drama unfolded — every local team that qualified has a really good chance of making it to the state finals at the end of the month.
None of the seven teams — Lassiter, Kennesaw Mountain, Hillgrove, Harrison, North Cobb, Allatoona and Pope — can knock another squad out and most of them have favorable first and second round matchups, making it a little easier to advance. The Warriors, who also made the state playoffs in 2011, are the only school among the group that missed out on last year’s postseason.
All of the programs will be vying for a spot in the state finals, which will be held Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 at the South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus.
First- and second-round playoff games will feature a best two-of-three series format, with doubleheaders beginning Wednesday and a third game, if necessary, played Thursday. Second-round series are set for Oct. 23-24.
Allatoona coach Troy Pirkle can attest that this season’s crop of locals all have a great chance at reaching the state finals. Pirkle and his Lady Buccaneers, who captured their second straight Region 5AAAAA championship and are in the playoffs for the fourth straight season, faced off against all of the qualifiers, going 4-3 in the process.
“There are a lot of good teams in the county and some of them have some tough draws, even us,” he said. “But by now, none of us are going to see anything more significant than what we’ve already faced. We all played tough schedules and played in a lot of good tournaments. It’s prepared us all for a good shot at Columbus.”
Allatoona will host Region 7AAAAA No. 4 seed Cambridge in the first round and could face perennial postseason entrant Loganville in Round 2.
On the other side of Allatoona’s bracket is Region 7AAAAA’s No. 3 seed Pope. The Lady Greyhounds, who were Class AAAAA state runner-ups last season, travel to face Region 5AAAAA No. 2 South Paulding. Heritage-Conyers, a No. 1 seed from Region 8AAAAA, is also in Pope’s part of the bracket.
Pope is making its fourth consecutive playoff appearance and fifth overall.
“At this stage of the season, every team deserves to be here and there are a lot of good teams,” Pope coach Chris Turco said. “We’ve won 15 of our last 16 games, so I think we’re playing as well as we’ve been all year. The team is optimistic, and it will be a tough road right from the start.”
Lassiter won a region crown in 2011, but had to settle for a No. 4 seed last year. This time the Lady Trojans return as Region 5AAAAAA champions, making their ninth straight postseason trip.
Lassiter hosts Region 7AAAAAA No. 4 Habersham Central in the first round. A possible matchup against defending Class AAAAAA state champion Archer (No. 2 in Region 8AAAAAA) looms in the second round.
Kennesaw Mountain, Hillgrove, Harrison and North Cobb reached the playoffs out of Region 4AAAAAA.
Kennesaw Mountain, the Class AAAAAA state runner-up last year, returns as the region champion and No. 1 seed. The Lady Mustangs are in the postseason for the 10th consecutive year and will host the No. 4 seed from Region 2AAAAAA, Rockdale County.
Hillgrove, which is making its fourth straight playoff showing and fifth in the last six years, is the region’s No. 2 seed. The Lady Hawks will host the No. 3 seed Newton County in the first round.
Region No. 3 Harrison travels to Region 2AAAAAA’s No. 2 seed Luella. The Lady Hoyas are in the postseason for the ninth time in 10 seasons. A potential second-round matchup against Region 3AAAAAA champion East Coweta awaits.
Finally, region No. 4 North Cobb will travel to Region 2AAAAAA champion Alcovy. The last time the Lady Warriors made an appearance in the state playoffs — 2011 — they reached the state finals in Columbus for the first time in school history.
“The girls are excited,” North Cobb coach JoBeth Weaver said. “We’re a No. 4 seed, but we’re glad to be in the tournament. It’s good to be back and we’re looking forward to getting through it. We’ve faced some good teams all season, and now we get to see how things go.”
While the brackets for the state’s five highest classifications are getting started, the Class A tournaments — separated for private and public schools — won’t begin until Oct. 23-24.
Based on the final MaxPreps.com power rankings which will be released Tuesday, none of the county’s private schools will make the playoffs.
Whitefield Academy had the best chance of advancing as the No. 19 rated team in the latest listing. However, the Lady Wolfpack probably didn’t earn enough quality wins in their Region 6A tournament to move into the top 16 qualifying postseason spots.