The GHSA Class 1A private school softball playoffs start this week, and there are high hopes for the four Bibb County teams.
Four of the top 11 programs in the the classification reside in Macon. That makes the chance for the state championship to stay in Macon another year a strong possibility.
Leading the pack is Tattnall Square, which is the No. 2 seed and one of the favorites in the playoffs. The Trojans and FPD have earned a bye in the first round, which means they get a week to recover, clean details up and prepare themselves for their playoff push.
FPD, which is seeded seventh, won the state title last year.
“We’re going to play Wilcox (County) just to stay tuned up,” Tattnall head coach Joey Hiller said, while talking about the importance of staying sharp through the bye. “We need to play good competition, and Wilcox is 22-1.”
Stratford and Mount de Sales both earned home dates in the first round. Stratford, the No. 9 seed, will take on 24th-seeded Hebron Christian. Mount de Sales earned the 11th seed and will face the 22nd-seeded Fellowship Christian.
If both teams advance and join Tattnall and FPD in the second round, they will head out on the road to face Brookstone and Mount Pisgah, respectively.
While Tattnall and FPD will host their second-round series, they will have tough competition if they want to make it to Columbus for the quarterfinals. FPD will play Darlington or Galloway, while Tattnall will play Landmark Christian or Mount Paran.
“I’ve been told that Darlington is as good of a private school team as there is out there this year,” Hiller said. “We played Darlington last year in the second round, and it was two fantastic ballgames. We scored late to win both of them, and that’s who FPD might have.”
Hiller’s team won’t have an easy road either despite potentially facing a lower seed.
“Mount Paran's got a really good pitcher; she's committed to Georgia,” Hiller said with a laugh about the realization of the difficult road ahead. “So it’s going to be a lot of work. We’re going to have to play our best softball when we get out there.”
What’s waiting out there is a paradigm shift for softball. While dominant starting pitching still rules the day, the ability to manufacture runs can put a team in position to claim a championship. Hiller, however, still believes success is all about the pitcher’s circle.
“If you can do it right in the circle and not walk people then play good defense behind your pitcher, you’ve got a chance to beat anybody,” Hiller said.
Thanks to their rankings all four teams have an opportunity to advance to Columbus, but that’s where things would really get familiar for Tattnall. If all the Macon teams continue to win, Tattnall could face FPD in the quarterfinals, Mount de Sales in the semifinals and Stratford in the championship.
While that could be a dream scenario, Hiller knows the reality is the road is going to be tough for everyone involved.
“There’s a lot of work,” Hiller said. “There’s nothing written in stone yet as far as who’s going to make it to Columbus. We still all have to play ball.”
GHSA Softball Playoffs
Area First-Round Pairings
Northside at Effingham County
Houston County at Richmond Hill
Veterans at South Effingham
McIntosh at Jones County
Perry at Columbus
Mary Persons at Northside-Columbus
Peach County at Jenkins
Islands at Rutland
Class 1A Private School
Hebron Christian at Stratford
Fellowship Christian at Mount de Sales
Byes: FPD, Tattnall Square