Shawn Masters looked up into the stands and saw something he never expected.
The Perry head baseball coach noticed Peach County fans littered about the crowd, and most of the Trojans players energetically cheering on his team in an important region matchup with Cairo late in the season.
“It was a very odd sight to see,” Masters said. “It’s not something I would have expected. But there hasn’t been much bad blood between the two baseball teams. I think a lot of the players get along. The communities are starting to come around.”
Peach County did have a vested interest in the game that day.
The Trojans clinched the GHSA Region 1-AAA championship with a Perry win, so the short trip was about business. But fans of the Trojans and Syrupmakers had a dustup on a popular online message board, so seeing Cairo lose had a little pleasure in it too.
“(Peach County-Perry) is a big-time rivalry,” Peach County head coach Jeffrey Bailey said. “They want to beat each other’s brains in when they play. But our kids like their kids, and we had an interest in them winning that game. We had a large crowd of Peach County supporters there.”
The recent détente between the two teams will continue today when both teams take the field in the third round of the Class AAA baseball tournament. Perry travels to Oconee County, while Peach County hosts Carrollton, a team that it has lost to the past four seasons. It’s the first trip to the quarterfinals since 2003 for Perry, while Peach County makes its second appearance in the quarterfinals in three years.
“Once you get to this point, there’s region pride and community pride,” Bailey said. “You want to see the other teams from your region represent the region well. You also want to see teams you have played against do well. You definitely pull for them.”
A number of players on both teams played recreation baseball with and against one another growing up. Others have played travel baseball with each other.
“I think every Peach County player was right outside the fence when we beat Cairo,” Masters said. “They like each other. The coaches get along. The communities can still get heated, though.”
But the communities have banded together a little closer with Houston County — Northside is also in the quarterfinals in AAAAA — and Peach County baseball trying to prove themselves to the state and the more established baseball communities of Columbus and metro Atlanta.
“Our area and region is a little underrated,” Masters said. “It cycles around a little bit, but baseball around here is pretty good. We might lose (today), but to have two local schools get to the final eight is an accomplishment. We’d like to keep winning, and we’d like to see Peach County keep winning. There is a sense of pride there.”