Eight teams, including the LaGrange Grangers, will get their Region 5-AAAA schedules started this week.
The goal for all eight teams is to earn an invitation to the state playoffs, and a team will have to finish in the top four in the region to make that a reality.
LaGrange will begin its state journey with a home game against Shaw on Friday.
The Grangers bring a 6-5 record into region play, and they’ve won four straight games to get over .500 for the first time this season.
Head coach Todd Herrington said the previous 11 games were all about getting ready for the grind of region play.
With that in mind, Herrington put together a tough non-region schedule that put the Grangers to the test each game.
“We would rather play teams that we feel like are the caliber of teams we’re going to face down the road,” Herrington said. “We may drop one here or there, but we’re going to learn from it hopefully and get better from it. And I think we have. I think we’re starting to respond better.”
The Grangers were 2-5 after losing to Newnan, but they’ve ripped off four straight wins since, including Monday’s rain-shortened 6-1 victory over Brookstone.
“We’ve won our last four against good teams,” Herrington said. “Our hitting is starting to come around a little bit. I’m hoping it’s still not as good as it’s going to be. I’m hoping there’s still a lot of room for improvement. But we have improved there. And we’ve improved with our leadership.”
One constant for LaGrange since Day 1 is a solid pitching staff that includes seniors Drew Moody, Mitchell Donahue and Jake Norton, the usual starting pitchers.
Moody threw an eight-inning shutout against Fernandina Beach on Saturday, and Donahue showed what he can do when he pitched the Grangers to a 2-1 victory over Russell County in the LaGrange Invitational.
A number of other pitchers, including sophomore Tristain Daugherty, have also thrown well.
“Our pitching has been outstanding,” Herrington said. “Coach (Jason) Willis has done an outstanding job with the pitchers.”
Herrington said of late the offense has started to catch up with the pitching.
“We started out the year not hitting well, which is normal,” Herrington said. “Coach (Lee) Phelps has stayed on them about our approach. We stayed the course. Guys are starting to buy in and believe in what we’re telling them.”
One thing Herrington has stressed to his players is the importance of every region game.
In a region that is expected to be tightly bunched, one win or loss could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs.
“That’s a hard thing to get a bunch of 16, 17 and 18-year-old guys to understand. They don’t understand what’s happening now is going to affect the future,” Herrington said. “We have to approach every single game like our season is on the line.”
And that begins Friday against Shaw.
“Every region game, the playoffs are on the line,” Herrington said. “That’s the way we have to play it.”