The only sure thing in Division 3-AAAA baseball is Columbia County is loaded with talent.
As the prep baseball season rounds third base, Lakeside and Greenbrier high schools have shown why they are often at the top of division rankings, and why this year is no exception.
As of Sunday, Lakeside was ranked first, and Greenbrier was third behind Richmond County's Cross Creek.
Greenbrier Coach Ed Williams summed it up: "Every game is so big now."
A win or loss in division play could scramble the standings as the top teams head into an intense final week of baseball and, with the right combination, could even result in a three-way tie.
Over the weekend, Lakeside dominated Burke County 12-3, Greenbrier topped Statesboro 4-3 and Cross Creek beat Jones County 3-1. These weekend victories maintained the status quo in the division, where undefeated Lakeside, under the direction of Coach Jimmy Smith, retains the top spot.
Cross Creek has lost just once, and Greenbrier has lost two division games. Still, the overall records of the top three teams remain impressive, and close. As of Sunday, Lakeside was 18-3, while Greenbrier was 18-2 and Cross Creek was 17-5.
Lakeside would love to clinch the division crown in order to get a better berth in state playoffs, which has been a stumbling block for the Panthers.
Despite strong teams and solid records, Lakeside missed out on the last couple of chances for a state title through unlucky seeding when they lost early in playoffs to the eventual champ.
Their fortune may change this year if their strength on the mound continues along with their solid batting; this weekend Chris Banker hit three for three, Dustin Tyra was two for four and Carl Burrow and Ryan Davis both batted two for two.
Defending champ Greenbrier has so many division crowns, it's hard to keep count. The Wolfpack, which landed state titles from 1997 to 1999, remains strong this year, depending on a group of experienced seniors to anchor the team.
"They've been through the program, and they understand what's at stake," Williams said.
The Pack didn't disappoint this weekend when they showed aggressive offense with Scott Wandless, Michael Newman and Brad Ramsbotham all batting 2-for-3.
Cross Creek is solid, too, and will remain a challenge to the Columbia County teams as long as their talented catcher Jon Eagan keeps hitting as well as he did over the weekend when he went four for four. Baseball fans may want to mark May 6, when Greenbrier plays host to Lakeside at 6 p.m. It will be Greenbrier's last contest, but may also prove to be the defining game of the division.
The Wolfpack, though, isn't looking so far ahead just yet.
"We just play one game at a time," Williams said.
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