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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On the Road for Round 2

Today's GHSA baseball second-round state playoff series: Columbus High, Harris County at home; Brookstone travels to Charlton County
Posted: 12:20am on May 9, 2012; Modified: 12:43am on May 9, 2012

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Harris County coach Steve Westmoreland summed up the second round of the Georgia High School Association state baseball playoffs:
"Only 16 teams are left (in each classification), and we are one of them," he said.
Westmoreland's Tigers are one of three Columbus-area schools which will begin second-round action today. Harris County plays host to East Paulding in a 4:30 p.m. doubleheader, while Harlem visits Columbus High. That doubleheader begins at 2 p.m.
Brookstone travels to Folkston to meet Region 2-A champion Charlton County in a 4 p.m. best-of-three series.
Harlem at Columbus
The main story between these two successful high school baseball programs might be the two coaches squaring off. Columbus coach Bobby Howard and Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis are two of the state's top five winning coaches.
Howard leads the state with 883 wins, while Lewis is fifth with 638. The two coaches have combined to produce 18 state titles.
"I've always admired Jimmie's teams," Howard said. "But he and I don't have eligibility left, thank goodness. Harlem is not afraid to play anybody. They would not be intimidated to play us if Jered Weaver was pitching."
The Bulldogs (20-7) have won five of their past six, including last weekend's sweep of East
side in the first round. Harlem will be led on the mound by senior right-hander Tyler Wirsu. Three of their losses have been to higher-ranked opponents, including two to Class AAAA top-ranked Greenbrier.
Harlem is expected to be a much tougher matchup after the Blue Devils (25-3) ripped Arabia Mountain in two games by a combined 24-0.
"That first game was a lot closer," Howard said. "We scored eight or nine runs off three big swings. The second game, we kicked it around. We've got to get better. We got here behind our pitching."
East Pauldingat Harris County
The Tigers (22-5) face a talented East Paulding squad capable of putting on an offensive show. In the Raiders' first-round series against Redan, they scored 37 runs, so Westmoreland has put his team on notice.
"They hit the ball so well," Westmoreland said. "And their pitching seems to be pretty good. Our guys have to understand that we have to eliminate freebies at the plate. If our pitchers put guys on base with freebies, I don't know if we can outscore them."
Harris County did a good job of outscoring Mt. Zion-Jonesboro in the first round Friday. The Tigers scored 35 runs on 25 hits in a two-game sweep.
Game 1 pitcher Payne Kosobucki threw a five-inning, one-hit shutout to set the tone. Westmoreland expects his senior right-hander to deliver a similar performance today.
Harris County wasn't nearly as sharp pitching in Game 2. However, Westmoreleand expects today to be different.
"One of the things we hadn't had to deal with a lot this season was things such as walks and hit batters," Westmoreland said. "Our guys have to realize that if they score six or seven runs off those kinds of things, we have a chance to lose the game. We've got to clean some of those things up and play better."
Brookstoneat Charlton County
The Cougars (21-7) will make their longest road trip of the season to visit Charlton County. The Indians (23-3) are having their best season in school history and captured the Region 2-A title. Last weekend's sweep of Baconton Charter marked the first time Charlton has made it past the first round.
The Indians are led by pitching standouts Chris Smith and Scott Beasley, who dominated Baconton hitters last weekend. Infielder Jacob Baxter had four hits in the sweep, including three doubles and leads the offense. Brookstone coach Vince Massey expects his team to compete in a difficult environment.
"Each time you get to move on, you're grateful for the opportunity," he said. "It's going to be exciting. I think the town (of Folkston) is probably feeding off their team. Our guys are going to have to go in with the understanding of taking the surroundings out of the game."
Brookstone claimed an emotional 2-1 victory in 11 innings in Game 1 of the first round last week when Drew Lingo's attempted steal of home resulted in a balk and scored the winning run.
That momentum carried over into the Game 2 win and the series sweep of Metter. Massey hopes the momentum goes with the Cougars to Folkston.
"Our guys are relaxed and prepared to play their best," he said. "I hope our best is better than their best."

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