If their respective opponents are any indication, pitching will be a major key in the state baseball semifinal series for Brookwood and Wesleyan when they take the field for doubleheaders Monday.
The Broncos (22-10) will be facing a Pope (26-6) staff that features two future Southeastern Conference hurlers when they travel to the Pope Multi-Sport Complex for a Class AAAAA series with the Greyhounds at 3:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Wolves (23-9) welcome a Brookstone (24-7) team to Donn Gaebelein Field for their Class A semifinal series beginning Monday at 4 p.m. that also features at least two strong starting pitchers.
"They've got three very legit starters, no question about it," Brookwood coach Rick Howard said of Pope's rotation.
True, all three of the Greyhounds' starters have been solid throughout their first three rounds.
However, their two seniors - right-handed Georgia signee Jake Montgomery and Mississippi State-bound lefty Matt Lane - have been especially strong, including during Pope's second-round win over North Gwinnett.
Though not possessing that kind of pedigree, Brookwood's lefty duo of seniors Cameron Hall and Matt Adams have been equally solid during the postseason, as have relievers Michael Brown and Micah Shue.
Both staffs have been highly tested in the early rounds, with the Broncos having sweated out their four wins in the last two rounds by a combined six runs and Pope having had to fight go the distance with its last two best-of-three series with North and Northside-Warner Robins.
"Both of us have been tried," Howard said. "I think what makes it a great series is the atmosphere is going to be awesome. Both of us have been through a lot to get here. Different roads, obviously, but it seems like we're both on the same surface."
Wesleyan and Brookstone have also had their share of drama in their roads to the Class A semifinals, and like their Class AAAAA counterparts, pitching has been a key.
With junior left-hander Devin Stanton returning to health and his old dominant self, senior right-hander Drew Fithian has stepped into the rotation in place of injured Brooks Colquitt quite nicely.
And with others like Micah Mabe, Kevin O'Leary and J.J. Russell having stepped up in the postseason, the Wolves have a lot of confidence in their staff.
However, they will be facing a Brookstone staff that features two solid pitchers of their own in senior right-hander Neal Amos and junior right-hander Milton McCluskey, each of whom threw a complete game victory in the Cougars' quarterfinal win over Darlington.
Brookstone is also strong at the plate, as it demonstrated in a 13-4 regular season win over Wesleyan on March 7 in Columbus.
And Wolves coach Mike Shaheen knows the Cougars will be just as dangerous in the cozy confines of Donn Gaebelein Field on Monday.
"We've got our hands full," Shaheen said. "All nine of their hitters can hit. That's something in (Class) A that's rare. We've tried to pride ourselves on that - having a complete batting order, and they have that. So, our pitchers are going to have to make an adjustment."
SideBar: State Baseball
(Series are best 2 out of 3)
3:30 p.m. - Brookwood at Pope (DH)
4 p.m. - Brookstone at Wesleyan (DH)
(Game 3, if necessary)
6 p.m. - Brookwood at Pope (DH)
4 p.m. - Brookstone at Wesleyan