Without the presence of a dominant team in Region 6-AAAA, coaches are finding the battle for the four state playoffs to be more fun this season.
Marist, the two-time defending Class AAAA state champion, lost 15 seniors from last year’s team and is in fifth place in the region. Dunwoody, Redan and Chamblee are all 9-2. Miller Grove and Marist have three region losses and Southwest DeKalb is in sixth place with four region losses.
The final two weeks of the season consist of a “redrawn” schedule that will help determine the four state playoff teams in the region. The regular season ends April 25.
“Within the top seven or eight teams, anybody can beat anybody,” Chamblee coach Brian Ely said. “It’s interesting and exciting. No one team is dominating like Marist has been the past couple of years.”
Last week’s games provided a good example of the balance in the region. Southwest DeKalb, which had beaten Marist earlier in the season, beat Dunwoody 5-4 on April 13, and beat Lakeside 5-4 in 12 innings on April 10.
Region 5-AAA has a similar format to determine its playoff participants. The top two teams play each other to determine the region champion, and both automatically qualify for the state playoffs. The third- through sixth-place teams play two games to determine the other two spots.
St. Pius and Arabia Mountain have the best chances among schools in DeKalb County to make the state playoffs. St. Pius currently is in second place behind Woodward Academy and Arabia Mountain, which beat St. Pius earlier in the season, is tied for fifth. The Rams had a five-game winning streak snapped April 13 in a 12-0 loss to Woodward but should make the top six.
With the redrawn schedule in 6-AAAA, even sixth-place Southwest and eighth-place Lakeside have a shot at the top four. Southwest played April 18 at Marist, then faces Lakeside, Mays and Miller Grove to close out the regular season.
“If we can close it out like we played the last three or four games, I’ll be totally happy,” Southwest coach Tyrus Taylor said. “We’ve played a lot of one-run games, so we’ve had a chance in just about every game we’ve played.”
Dunwoody, Redan and Chamblee have the best chances to finish among the top two and earn the right to host a first-round playoff series.
“It’s been a little more balanced and competitive this year,” Dunwoody coach Chan English said. “It’s more competitive and exciting. You can’t take anybody for granted. One loss can really mess you up as far as seeding goes.”
Pitching has been the strength of the top three teams in Region 6-AAAA this season. Chamblee’s Patrick Gaulden won two games April 9-13 and raised his record to a county-best 8-1. James Cunningham and Logan Elliot have been strong for Dunwoody, and Wesley Jones has kept Redan in the hunt.
“We’re very deep pitching-wise and I think our pitching can hold people down,” English said. “That will be a big part of how we finish the year and how we do at state.”