In an eight-team region, there are at least five teams capable of advancing to the state playoffs and making a deep run once they get there.
Only four teams in the region will advance to the state playoffs, though, meaning at least one quality baseball team is going to be sitting at home when the playoffs begin.
“When it’s Columbus, and Carrollton, and Alexander and LaGrange, there’s going to be an odd-man out this year,” Garner said. “Hopefully we’ve done enough to get ourselves prepared for the grind that we’re about to go through.”
Last season, Columbus, LaGrange, Troup and Carrollton were the state representatives from Region 6-AAA, and all four teams made it at least as far as the state quarterfinals.
Troup made it to the semifinals where it lost to eventual state-champion Columbus.
Alexander, meanwhile, made it to the second round of the playoffs in Class AAAA.
“Last year, there was an obvious gap between Columbus and the rest of us. This year, it’s going to be a lot tighter,” Garner said. “I don’t see anyone going through the region without a couple of losses.”
Garner said the other three teams in the region, Shaw, Fayette County and Sandy Creek, are also capable of beating anyone on a given day.
“These teams that we play in the region are second to none, especially with the addition of Alexander,” Garner said. “And you can never take any of the others, Shaw, Sandy Creek or Fayette, lightly, or they’ll hurt you.”
The Tigers bring a 4-5 record into region play, and they’ve lost four of their past five games.
Even after playing nine games, Garner said there’s still a lot that has to be settled in the lineup.
“Right now, our lineup is day to day,” Garner said. “We have some injuries we’re having to deal with. We still haven’t totally solidified our starting nine, or 10 with the (designated hitter). We’re going to have to take it game by game right now, and hopefully it works it’s way out.”
One thing the Tigers have is a dominant pair of starters in seniors Garrett McClurg and Jacob Ozley, who have both been lights out this seasaon.
McClurg started the season with a shutout over Northgate, and Ozley was on the mound for all seven innings of a 1-0 win over Harris County on Saturday.
With those two pitchers, Garner said “we feel like we have a fighting chance. You just hope you can hit the ball and do the other intangibles, hit and bunt and run a little bit, and give ourselves a chance offensively.”