Mill Creek softball coach Roger Parham knew Jennifer Edwards the player long before he knew her as Grayson's softball coach.
Parham coached South Gwinnett's softball team when Edwards was a standout as pitcher at Brookwood in the late 1990s.
"It doesn't make me feel old," Parham joked this week. "I am old."
While Parham remembers her as a good player, he is more concerned with Edwards' well-coached team this week when his Hawks travel to Grayson for a second-round series in the Class AAAAAA playoffs. The first two games of the best-of-three series are today, and a trip to the state finals in Columbus is at stake.
"It's going to be a tough game," Parham said. "Jennifer does a good job. They'll be well-coached. (Grayson's) Taylor Denton is going to be a difficult out, but they've been playing really well up and down the order."
Denton, already a three-time all-county selection who should make that four times later this year, sparks the Grayson offense and is the county's reigning defensive player of the year at shortstop. Amber Miller, Stephanie Snyder, Sierra Smith and others also have played well for a team that has lost only three times in its last 17 games.
Breanna Ethridge, Jen Spangler and Peyton Glover have been solid pitching for the Rams.
It's been a more up-and-down, late-season spell for the Hawks, who lost five college signees off last year's state runner-up team. But the newcomers have boosted a lineup that returned standouts like Lauren Bennett, Taylor Rogers and Morgan Bell from last season's record-breaking offense.
Meanwhile, Kaitlyn Howell and Heather Felt have delivered solid pitching for Mill Creek.
And enough veterans returned, whether they played a key role or not a year ago, that their experience should help in the postseason.
"They understand the different level of intensity that comes with playoff softball," Parham said.
Lions push to the brink of rare Columbus trip
Two more wins and Peachtree Ridge's state softball drought will end.
That's the plan for head coach Bubba Wilson and the sixth-ranked Lions, who host No. 5 Lassiter in a second-round, best-of-three series beginning today. They have stayed focused during the long season with the goal of being one of the eight teams remaining for the final state round next week in Columbus.
"We're as close to (Columbus) as we've been in awhile," Wilson said. "The girls are excited. We're excited. Hopefully that will get us through one more series."
Lassiter, which upset Region 8-AAAAAA champion Brookwood in the first round, won't be an easy matchup for the Lions. Wilson compared the Trojans to Mill Creek -- solid in all phases.
Seniors continue to lead Peachtree Ridge's push to Columbus. The Lions (27-5) got major contributions in last week's first-round win over South Forsyth from their four standout 12th-graders -- Sam Pierannunzi, Kayla Jones, Sarah Walker and Quinn Hill.
"Our core of seniors are carrying the weight," Wilson said. "They're the core of our team."
Hill (13-3) and Walker (14-4) had solid pitching efforts in Round 1, while the offense produced a whopping 24 runs.
Walker hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs in Game 1. Andie McGregor drove in four runs in Game 2 and Pierannunzi had a home run.
Outside of a slip-up to North Gwinnett in the region tournament finals, the Lions have been rolling.
"Our philosophy has been pretty simple, not walk people, play defense and get timely hitting," Wilson said. "That's the way we've gone about things."
North aims to solve Archer's Cabrales
Immediately after North Gwinnett finished off a 4-0 Game 3 win over Lambert, the Bulldogs' attention shifted.
They know their next opponent in the Class AAAAAA softball playoffs well and the returning players have bitter memories of the Archer Tigers.
Archer eliminated North Gwinnett a season ago in the first round of the state playoffs, silencing the Bulldogs' bats, to win 3-0 and 1-0. Tigers pitcher Kanani Cabrales dominated in both games.
"We did discuss that last year they put us out," North head coach Randy Black said of the team's postgame talk. "They still have that same pitcher and she is a very good pitcher."
North begins its series with Archer with a doubleheader at 5 p.m. today at North. If needed, the deciding Game 3 is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday.
Cabrales hasn't slowed down this year, going 16-4 in the regular season with a 1.36 ERA and 136 strikeouts.
"It's not going to be something different (in facing Cabrales)," Black said. "We are just going to have to take advantage and be selective up at the plate. Hopefully, they'll help us out a little bit if we put it in play."
It's that small difference Black is seeking. Last year, Cabrales rarely had a Bulldog on base and the defense watched plenty of strikeouts.
"Hopefully, she'll be human this series," Black said.