Thirteen Cobb County baseball teams will begin their treks toward a possible state championship Thursday when the state playoffs get underway.
It could set up for a successful end to a season which will see the Class AAAAAA and Class AAAAAAA state championship series being held at Truist Park from May 24-26.
Cobb is already guaranteed to have at least one team advance to the second round as Campbell will host North Cobb in one of the more intriguing opening round matchups.
Campbell (18-10) won the Region 2AAAAAAA title, marking the first for the program since the opening of the current Campbell High School in 1989, and it will be the first time the Spartans will have hosted a playoff series.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Spartans coach Jeff Searcy said. “The first time ever that Campbell will host a playoff series at home. We’ve got North Cobb starting Thursday, and it’s great. I’m so proud of these guys, and they’ve worked hard all season to win the region and be able to host a state tournament series. It’s an awesome blessing and really a testament to what these guys have done.”
Campbell and North Cobb (15-15) have already faced off this season, with the Spartans earning a 7-4 win in extra innings back in early March. It will set up a rematch between two of the best players in the county — Campbell’s Michael Braswell, who is hitting .427 with 16 RBIs, and North Cobb’s Harry Ford, who could be a first-round selection in July’s Major League Baseball draft.
Other matchups in Class AAAAAAA include McEachern at North Paulding, Harrison at East Coweta and Newnan at Walton.
Walton has won 10 of its last 11 games coming into the playoffs and coach Shane Amos said the pitching has really come around in the second half of the year. That, along with the team’s hitting and defense, could make for a long playoff run, but he said his squad is in a similar place to many in the state’s highest classification.
“It’s up in the air,” Amos said. “We’re playing good baseball right now, but we’re going to have to (continue to) hit the ball well and play good defense.”
Allatoona (25-5) will lead Cobb into the Class AAAAAA playoffs, and it is not out of the question that three of the four teams from Region 6AAAAAA — the Buccaneers, Pope and Lassiter — could make runs to the final four. The trio, along with Buford and Carrollton, are among the favorites to claim a state title next month, but Allatoona coach Keith Hansen said the field is wide-open.
“If we can make it past the first round, then we might get to face Winder-Barrow who has the best player in the country,” Hansen said, referring to Brady House, a shortstop projected to go in the top 10 of the draft. “They are pretty good.
“There are six or seven teams in Class AAAAAA that could win any division in the state.”
Hansen also said the playoffs offer an opportunity for teams to have a season reset, and Allatoona may be playing one of those teams in Round 1. Sequoyah come in with a 13-16 record, but the Chiefs’ solid pitching could provide the Buccaneers with an early challenge.
“They have a new coach who is a good guy, but sometimes it takes a little while for the players and coaches to get the feel of each other,” Hansen said of Sequoyah coach Jason Eller, a Sprayberry High School graduate.
Other Class AAAAAA matchups include Riverwood at Pope, Lassiter at Cambridge and Kennesaw Mountain at River Ridge.
In the Class A private-school tournament, Mount Paran Christian (19-3) leads the way, having won 14 in a row and 18 of its last 19. The Eagles, who will host St. Francis in the opening round, are led by Cam Collier, a sophomore infielder and pitcher who Hansen had high praise for.
“He’s the real deal,” Hansen said. “We played them in a scrimmage before the season. In two years, he’s a top draft pick.”
Other Class A Private series include Aquinas at Whitefield Academy, Mount Pisgah Christian at Walker and North Cobb Christian at King’s Ridge Christian.