In the end, two Cobb County teams — Mount Paran Christian and Walker — rated among the top 16 that will participate in this year’s baseball playoffs.
Mount Paran (23-3), winner of the last three Region 6A championships, earned the No. 2 seed and will host their first-round state playoff series against No. 15 Aquinas (17-8), starting with a doubleheader today at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, Walker (14-8) earned the No. 12 position and will visit No. 5 King’s Ridge Christian (20-4) at the American Legion facility in Alpharetta, starting today at 3 p.m.
The final game of both series, if necessary, will take place Saturday.
Mount Paran is no stranger to the postseason, nor is it a stranger to postseason success. The Eagles are in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and have won their last three first-round playoff series. Last season, Mount Paran advanced to the state finals where it lost in two games to Eagle’s Landing Christian.
“Our returners got a taste of the finals, and they liked it,” Mount Paran coach Kyle Reese said. “Without a doubt, getting back to the finals and finishing the job has been their focus. They’ve played every game as hard as they can.
“They know they played well in the championship, but they didn’t play as well as they could have. We had a very good offseason, and that’s carried over. Our pitching has been lights-out and our defense has been strong.
“If I could buy a ticket and watch these guys play, I would. They’re dialed in.”
Walker’s postseason success has been hit-and-miss over the years. The Wolverines reached the state quarterfinals in 2010 and made the playoffs in 2012. They missed the postseason in 2011 and ’13.
“We were a young team last year that went through a lot of injuries,” Walker coach Mike Brady said. “Our pitching wasn’t where it needed to be, and we just weren’t ready to sustain success.
“We’ve turned our pitching around this year, and that’s helped us a lot. We’re also healthier, and the guys have a year of experience. We have four starting pitchers in the postseason that can throw strikes and win games. It will take everybody stepping up to help get through the first round.”
Reese and Brady credited their Region 6A opponents, as well as challenging non-region schedules, for having their teams prepared for what they’ll face in the playoffs. Four of the top 11 teams in the final power ratings — including King’s Ridge and Darlington — are from Region 6A.
“All of the games, from here on out, will be tough,” Reese said. “With the top 16, you have to be ready to play well right out of the gate. There has to be a sense of urgency now.”
“We played some tough teams all season,” Brady added. “Our region was especially tough. I feel like it’s one of the top regions in the state.”
Walker split with King’s Ridge during the regular season, winning 5-2 in March before falling 12-2 two weeks ago.
“I hate that it’s a region opponent right off the bat in the first round, but it should be an exciting game,” Brady said.
Whitefield Academy (14-11) just missed qualifying for the postseason. The Wolfpack rated No. 17 in the final standings, falling .21 points behind No. 16 Landmark Christian.
“We were (No.) 18 last year, and this year, we were 17,” first-year Whitefield coach Michael Bailey said. “If we had won one more game, we probably would have been 15, so it’s a buzzkill.
“The good news is we finished with our first winning record in school history and we have everybody coming back. We’re not losing any seniors, plus we’ll bring some really good eighth-graders into the mix next year.”