Joey Hiller remembers the first time he led Tattnall Square into the state championship series against a city rival.
The young Tattnall head coach played rival Stratford in the 2000 GISA Class AAA championship game.
The big story lines that week revolved around Hiller trying to win his first state championship against his alma mater and former head coach Bubber Adams.
“There was a lot to talk about that week,” Hiller said.
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It has been 10 years and five state championships since that series, but Hiller and his Trojans will run up against another city rival today — FPD — in the GISA Class AAA championship series. Game 1 is set for 7:30 p.m. at FPD.
The plot and subplots are different this time, but they are still intriguing.
Tattnall is going after its third straight state title.
The teams already met this year with a region championship on the line. The Vikings won 8-5 with Tattnall ace DeAndre Smelter not pitching. FPD beat Tattnall, however, earlier in the season 6-5 with Smelter on the mound.
Both teams are riding high on the backs of two standout pitchers.
Smelter is 9-1 on the season with a 0.77 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 62-2/3 innings pitched. The senior has also been tremendous with the bat, batting .650 during his past 12 games. Smelter hasn’t lost in the playoffs.
Not to be outdone, Corbitt is 12-0 on the season with a 1.46 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 72 innings. The FPD senior has also been hot at the plate, ranking second on the team in batting average, home runs, runs scored and third in RBI.
Both coaches played coy when asked which pitcher they would throw in Game 1, but a Corbitt-Smelter matchup could be special. They grew up playing against each other in north Macon,and even played together on all-star teams. Both said they have a high level of respect for one another.
“I think both guys are great pitchers,” FPD senior Taylor Jones said. “Hitting against (Smelter) is a big challenge. I think other teams think the same about (Corbitt).”
The two schools — separated by less than four miles — will take the field against one another for the final time for at least two years with FPD heading to the GHSA following the season. There was plenty of talk about FPD’s GISA farewell tour when the school year began, and now FPD is one of the final two teams playing in the last sport still being held.
Both coaches downplayed the significance of the event.
“It’s not a big motivational factor to us,” Hiller said. “Regardless of who it is we are playing, we want to go out there and play the best baseball game we can play.”
Said FPD head coach Jim Turner, “To us, it’s just a state championship series, and that’s how we are treating it.”
Corbitt, however, did say, “We do want to go out on top.”