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Region schedules prep playoff teams

HOSCHTON -- It's not uncommon for the balance of power in Georgia baseball to be cyclical, just like with most other high school sports.

Based on the remaining local teams in the state playoffs, the balance of power has tipped toward Region 7 in two classifications.

Both Region 7-AAAAA (Mill Creek and North Gwinnett) and 7-A (Wesleyan and Providence Christian) have half their qualifiers still alive as the playoffs move into the quarterfinal round beginning Tuesday.

Collins Hill nearly made it three Region 7-AAAAA teams in the quarters before being eliminated by Harrison in a third-and-deciding game of its second-round series Thursday.

Still, having the Hawks (25-5) and Bulldogs (19-11) still standing is what demonstrates in both coaches Doug Jones' and Frank Vashaw's minds just how bruising their region schedule was this season.

"We had a great region (this year)," Jones said. "There are teams that sat at home that were playoff-caliber teams. (The race) went down to the last day, like it usually does. There was a lot of parity. ... It causes you to prepare with depth, which helps you in these situations."

That parity helped both those teams become battle-tested enough to withstand tough matchups in the first round, including defending state champion Pope (in Mill Creek's case) and powerhouse Milton (in the case of North).

The battles of Region 7-A really came in handy for both those local teams still alive, as well.

Two-time defending state champ Wesleyan (22-8) called on those experiences to outlast Landmark Christian in three games in a rematch of last year's title series.

The same was true for Providence, which upset powerful Hebron Christian in the second round.

And as Jones mentioned, Stars coach Adam Cantrell said the preparation his team received in playing strong region competition went even beyond its four playoff qualifiers.

"It definitely helps when you're out with teams like Wesleyan and Eagle's Landing Christian, who are year after year making it deep in the playoffs," Cantrell said. "But what's different now is the competition from the non-qualifiers. This year, even the teams at the bottom (of the region standings) played us tough. That was good preparation."