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Ashley Brown: Columbia County Baseball Playoff Predictions

Posted: April 26, 2017 - 2:07am

Round 1 of the GHSA Baseball Playoffs gets underway this week. The good news is four of our five public schools are in the playoffs. The bad news? A couple of them face two of the top pitchers in the state in their opening game.

Here is a breakdown of the opponents our Columbia County Schools will square off with in the opening round.

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Class AA

Bacon Co. (18-10, 10-4) @ Harlem (21-9, 12-2), 4 p.m., Friday, DH

The Bulldogs are probably not pleased with missing out on a region title, but they are still at home for the opening round of the postseason. They outscored the opposition, 219-72, this season, and while some would argue they beat up on a very weak region, keep in mind they posted victories over Evans, Lakeside, and Cross Creek. Also, four of the Bulldogs' losses came against Class AAAAAA Programs. Bacon County can score runs (averaging six runs per game), but they will face superior pitching and defense when they visit Harlem.

Prediction: Harlem in 3 games

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Class AAAAAA

Evans (11-16, 8-7) @ Lee Co. (20-10, 10-2), 4:30 p.m., Friday, DH

Sure, Evans had a down year. They're certainly not accustomed to having a sub .500 record. That said, they have shown that on a given day they can beat anyone. They'll need to play with confidence and limit their mistakes against a very good Lee Co. squad led by Mississippi State signee Josh Hatcher.

Hatcher is hitting .348 with two homers and 23 RBI. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound standout has been even better on the mound, where he is 8-0 with an ERA of 0.75.

In addition to Hatcher, Lee Co. boasts a pair of Kennesaw State signees in shortstop Tyler Simon (.316, 24 runs scored) and outfielder Malik Spratling (.281, 3 HR).

Hatcher is the team's ace, but Lee Co. has a deep pitching staff with six pitchers having nine or more appearances.

Evans will need Levin Lackey (.284, 14 RBI/3-4, 4.06 ERA) to have a big series on the mound and at the plate. Kyle Wilkinson is the Knights' leader on offense. He's hitting .346 with 21 runs scored and only four strikeouts all season.

Prediction: Lee Co. in 3 Games

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Valdosta (18-8, 7-5) @ Lakeside (16-9, 9-6), 4 p.m., Friday, DH

Lakeside has a very good team. They battled to earn home-field advantage in the opening round. Some reward they get. The Panthers will likely face D.L. Hall in Game One. Valdosta's hard-throwing lefty is projected to go in the top 15 picks in June's MLB Draft. One scout predicts he will be pitching in the big leagues by 2020. Hall has been excellent this season with an ERA of 1.25 and 77 Ks in just 39.1 innings. He has held opposing hitters to a .137 batting average as well, but he is not unbeatable, having lost two of his six decisions on the season. Sophomore Avery Stephens (4-1, 2.36) and Senior Luke Ard (4-3, 2.35) are also solid. Ard has shown control issues (39 walks in 41.2 innings) so the Panthers may be able to exploit that issue. Hall and Stephens are also the Wildcats' top offensive weapons. Hall is hitting .365 with 3 HR and 25 RBI, while Stephens is hitting .354 with 9 doubles and 15 RBI. Lakeside did play a very tough non-region schedule and won four of their six region series, so they will be a tough out, especially at home.

Prediction: Valdosta in 3 Games

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Coffee (13-17, 4-8) @ Greenbrier (21-7, 11-4), 4 p.m., Friday, DH

With the new region format (three-game series), you won't see as many teams posting nearly unbeaten regular seasons. So, for the Pack to be 21-7 in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year is quite impressive. Garrett Marchman and Hayden Harrison provide plenty of punch for the Pack's offense. They will simply need to throw strikes and play solid defense and they should be able to advance. One player Greenbrier will need to slow down is shortstop Maw Hughes. The Valdosta State signee is Coffee's top offensive weapon.

Prediction: Greenbrier in 2 Games

 

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