Columbia County's public high school baseball teams finish their regular-season schedules this week, and the race for state playoff berths won't be decided until the dust settles.
Of the four county prep squads, the Greenbrier Wolfpack is in the best position heading into the home stretch. The Pack improved their Region 3-AAAA record to 10-1 with a victory over Burke County last week in Waynesboro.
With a strong finish, the Pack would claim a fifth region title in six years, and would return to the top after finishing second last season.
Greenbrier entered the 2002 campaign with an unproven pitching staff, but the Pack hasn't struggled on the mound, thanks to the emergence or senior right-hander Nick Wandless.
After undergoing off-season arm surgery, Philip Tapley has started throwing again, and should help bolster Greenbrier's pitching staff.
While strong hitting throughout the lineup has pushed the Pack to the brink of a region crown, Greenbrier coach Ed Williams believes an unseen intangible has been the key.
"At the beginning of the season we dedicated the year to Craig Davis," Williams said of the former Pack player who died in an automobile accident last fall.
"A lot of the kids playing for us knew Craig very well. Dedicating the season to him has helped us a lot. Our focus is better. We realize you have to take advantage of things while you've got a chance."
With three region games this week, Greenbrier controls its own destiny. A sweep gives the Pack the region trophy, plus a No. 1 seed in the Class AAA state playoffs.
"If we can win out, the good thing about it is we don't have to rely on anyone else. It's all up to us," Williams said. "We've got a tough week ahead of us, with Lakeside, Statesboro and Josey. Every game we've got is important."
The critical game will be Monday at Lakeside, where the Pack and Panthers square off in a 7 p.m. contest. Lakeside could get back in the running for a region championship with a win over the Pack.
High School baseball schedule
Monday: Greenbrier at Lakeside, 7 p.m.; Mt. Zion-Jonesboro at Evans, 5 p.m.
Tuesday: Greater Augusta at Augusta Prep, 4:30 p.m.; Augusta Christian in Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA state playoffs, opponent, site and game time TBA.
Wednesday: Lakeside at Hephzibah, 5 p.m.; Westside at Harlem, 5 p.m.; Statesboro at Greenbrier, 6 p.m.
Friday: Thomson at Lakeside, 5:30 p.m.; Greenbrier at Josey, 4 p.m.; Evans in Region 4-AAAAA playoffs (doubleheader), opponent, site and game time TBA.
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