Aiken-area baseball and softball teams to start playoffs
Several area spring sports teams will open the second season today, as the playoffs will commence in high school baseball and softball.
Eight area baseball teams qualified for the postseason, while six softball squads will extend their season. Each will compete in double-elimination districts, looking to advance to either Upper or Lower State championship brackets.
Last season, Fox Creek sent both its baseball and softball teams to the state semifinals, while the South Aiken baseball squad was the only other area team to advance to that point. Both Predators squads return to the postseason this year and are threats to make deep runs again as top seeds in their districts. The Thoroughbreds aren’t in the playoffs this year, marking the first time since 2008 they failed to qualify for the postseason.
Perhaps the absence of a perennial playoff power could inspire one of the other area teams to contend for a state championship. If it does, the team or teams that get on a roll will likely do so as an underdog. Most of the area baseball and softball teams will open the playoffs on the road and would likely travel a long route to the championship brackets.
In Class AAAA, only one area team qualified for the playoffs. Aiken High made it to the postseason for the first time since 2008 and did it under the guidance of first-year head coach Kevin Lynn. The former North Augusta assistant will take his team on the road for a game against top-seeded Sumter. Regardless of outcome, the Hornets will play on the road again on Saturday, when they’ll face either Summerville or Lugoff-Elgin.
Both local Class AAA teams – Strom Thurmond and Midland Valley – are in the playoffs but both will be away from home today as the third and fourth seeds out of Region 5-AAA. Playing in District V, the Rebels are the No. 3 seed and will travel to Darlington. The fourth-seeded Mustangs are in District VI and will hit the road for Hartsville.
Strom Thurmond will play either Socastee or Hanahan on Saturday, while Midland Valley will travel to face either Hilton Head Island or Myrtle Beach.
Silver Bluff, the lone area team in Class AA, also has a tough road to hoe. The Bulldogs were the fourth seed in Region 5-AA and have to open the playoffs against top-seeded Academic Magnet, which it beat in their playoff opener a year ago. Silver Bluff will have a hard time repeating that success but will face either Bishop England or region rival Bamberg-Ehrhardt on Saturday.
While all of the previously mentioned baseball teams can be considered long shots to advance to the championship bracket, that’s not the case with the area representatives from Class A.
Fox Creek was dominant for a second-consecutive regular season and posted a perfect 10-0 mark against Region 4-A foes. The Predators are definitely one of the teams to watch in the hunt for a state title, and they’ll open the playoffs today at Riverview Park against Great Falls. The top-seeded team in District IV will host another playoff game on Saturday against either Ware Shoals or Christ Church. Should Fox Creek win both games, they’d be off until May 7 with a chance to return to the championship bracket.
Ridge Spring-Monetta will also open at home today, playing host to Lamar. Should they win, the Trojans could be at home on Saturday if Brashier Middle College pulls off an upset against Dixie in District I. If form holds they’ll travel for their second game. That’s a scenario that’s possible for both Wagener-Salley and Williston-Elko.
The War Eagles are the No. 3 seed in District II and will play at McBee today. They’ll play either St. Joseph’s or Calhoun Falls on Saturday, with the possibility of hosting Calhoun Falls. The Blue Devils are the fourth seed in District III and will open against top-ranked Lewisville. They’ll be on the road on Saturday against either Southside Christian or Whitmire.
As is the case in baseball, only one area softball team in Class AAAA qualified for the playoffs. North Augusta is the only local team from Region 5-AAAA in the postseason, and the No. 3 seed in District VII will open up at Conway. The Yellow Jackets will play either top-seeded Stratford or Colleton County on Saturday and are a dangerous team with lots of postseason experience, capable of a good run.
Midland Valley is the lone Class AAA area representative, and will open at home against Marlboro County. The second-place team in Region 5-AAA, the Mustangs are another veteran team with rich tradition in the playoffs and could be a championship contender. On Saturday, they’ll either play at Berkeley or stay home to host Socastee.
Class AA should be well represented by Silver Bluff, the Region 5-AA champion. The Lady Bulldogs were a win shy of making the state semifinals last season and return a strong core from that squad, making them a very realistic contender for a state title. They’ll play host to Woodland today and will be at home again on Saturday against either Battery Creek or Edisto.
Three Class A teams from the area made it to the playoffs, with two of them playing host to games today. Fox Creek is the top seed in District IV and will open at home against Great Falls. The Predators will play host to either Whitmire or Brashier Middle College on Saturday.
Wagener-Salley was the second-place team in Region 4-A and will open the playoffs at home against Lamar. The War Eagles have the possibility of playing at home again on Saturday against Christ Church, the fourth seed in District I. If they face top-seeded Dixie, it will be a road game. That’s where Ridge Spring-Monetta will be today, when the No. 3 seed in District II faces McBee. On Saturday, the Trojans will play either St. Joseph’s or McCormick.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.
• Aiken at Sumter
• Midland Valley at Hartsville
• Strom Thurmond at Darlington
• Silver Bluff at Academic Magnet
• Great Falls at Fox Creek
• Lamar at Ridge Spring-Monetta
• Wagener-Salley at McBee
• Williston-Elko at Lewsiville
• North Augusta at Conway
• Marlboro County at Midland Valley
• Woodland at Silver Bluff
• Great Falls at Fox Creek
• Lamar at Wagener-Salley
• Ridge Spring-Monetta at McBee