Local teams face less-familiar foes in second round

After seeing very familiar foes with the Region 7 vs. Region 8 matchup in the first round of the Class AAAAA state baseball playoffs last week, four Gwinnett teams had to do a little more research for the second round, which gets under way with doubleheaders this afternoon.

And in the case of two of those teams, it mean considerably more travel.

While Parkview plays host to Tift County and Mill Creek welcomes East Coweta to Fathers Field today, Grayson hits the road for Luella, while Brookwood has an even longer trip ahead of it as the Broncos head down to Moultrie to take on Colquitt County.

The travel was something local teams were prepared for, given the earlier North-South crossover set up in the GHSA's postseason brackets in most sports this year.

"Yeah, (Brookwood coach) Rick (Howard) and I talked about that a couple of weeks ago," said Grayson coach Seth Rhine, whose No. 3 state-ranked Rams (22-7) take on fourth-ranked Luella (21-6) today at 4 p.m. "And the ironic thing is that if we're successful (today), we may actually have to travel further next week (across town to either North Cobb or Milton)."

While travel may or may not be an issue depending on the teams involved, one issue that local teams will deal with is that today's opponents will be considerably less familiar than with last week's Gwinnett vs. Gwinnett first round.

But while scouting reports and, in some cases, unfamiliar facilities, will take some adjusting to, most coaches will try to stick to the same game plans that have gotten their teams this far.

"It doesn't really change what we do," Rhine said. "It changes a little what we tell our players. We'll try to gather as much information as we can so we can take as much of the unknown out of it as we can, and we can concentrate on what we do well.

"(Luella has) established a culture of a very successful program. They expect to find ways to win. So, I'm looking forward to another tough series, and I'm hoping we bring the same kind of positives to (the series)."

While Buford will face a similar crossover in its second-round series of the Class AA playoffs when the Wolves (18-10) travel to 10th-ranked Morgan County (21-7) today at 3:30 p.m., Gwinnett's two remaining Class A teams don't, thanks to the large number of teams in the state's smallest classifications, which necessitated an altered bracket.

But that doesn't mean the road will be any easier for either top-ranked and defending champion Hebron (26-2), which hosts No. 5 Darlington (24-4), or Providence (19-10), which welcomes 10th-ranked Gordon Lee (24-7), in their respective second-round series.