The Class AAA playoffs begin Friday afternoon and in what has been customary the Pierce County Bears are included.
What isn’t customary is PCHS (20-6) ranked sixth in the Top 10 poll, will begin the tournament on the road. Over the previous decade the Bears, who are the third seed from Region 1, have posted a 20-0 mark at home in 10 opening round series.
The winning streak will be put to the test when Pierce matches up against Region 4 No. 2 seed Westminster (20-6) in Atlanta. The Wolverines are ranked third in the latest poll.
“Like most of the other private schools in Atlanta,” said head coach Greg Gay, “they (Wolverines) are able to scholarship student-athletes. Therefore, they get to somewhat choose their team. We have been in this situation before and I am confident in our guys as long as we go and compete. This team is still learning to do that. I am looking forward to seeing these guys against a top notch team.”
Pierce County is 7-3 over its last 10 games. Two of the losses were to fourth-ranked Appling County and the other was to Savannah Christian, the Class A Power Ratings number one team/
Westminister is 6-4 over its final 10 games with losses to North Paulding, Lovett, Class AAAA second-ranked Buford and to Class AAA top-ranked Blessed Trinity.
The series is scheduled to start Friday at 4 p.m., with Game 1. The second game will start approximately 45 minutes after the conclusion of the opener. An “if” game is scheduled for Saturday morning at 11 a.m.
PCHS enters the series batting .290 on the season and averaging 6.4 runs per game. The Bears have just 35 extra base hits on the season, all doubles (32) and triples (three).
Ben Tuten is the Bears’ top hitter batting .516. He is just one of three regulars batting above .300. Walker Sinclair sports a .327 average and Stetson Bennett a .324 average.
Klay Allen is the RBI leader with 18. Three others are in double figures with Tuten (14), Logan Paul (11) and Bennett (11).
Cody Williams has turned into the ace of the staff, which sports a 2.55 team ERA. Williams is 9-1 on the season and has a 1.57 ERA. He has 102 strikeouts in 63 innings of work. Allen is 5-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 41.1 innings. Paul is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA.
As a staff, PCHS pitchers have surrendered just 123 hits in 172.2 innings. They have a 3.5-1 strikeout to walk ratio. The WHIP (walks, hits to innings pitched) is 1.12.
Pierce’s pitching corps will be tested by a Westminister squad that averages 10.7 runs per game. The Wolverines have reached double figures in runs 15 times in 26 games. Twice they were held to one run.
Westminister’s defense allows 3.7 runs per game. The pitching staff has recorded eight shutouts.
Pierce County’s quadrant of the playoff bracket also has eighth-ranked Westside-Augusta (21-4) and 10th-ranked Jefferson (19-6).
In other Region 1 vs. Region 4 matchups, fourth-seed Brantley County will open up with top-ranked and two-time defending champion Blessed Trinity (25-1). Second-ranked Franklin County (24-1) is also in the bracket.
No. 1 seed Appling County, ranked fourth, will host fourth-seed North Clayton (13-7). Seventh-ranked Ringgold (20-6) is the only other ranked team in the quadrant.
Southeast Bulloch, the second seed, opens at home against fifth-ranked Decatur (19-5), the No. 3 seed. Ninth-ranked Cedartown (22-4) is the only other ranked team in the bracket.