The first-round of the Class AAA state baseball playoffs between the Thomson High Bulldogs and the Rutland Hurricanes of Macon is set for a double-header Friday at the Thomson field.
Game No. 1 is set for 4 p.m. with Game No. 2 to follow. A third game in the best-of-two series, if needed, would be played at 4 p.m. on Saturday - again at the Thomson field.
"We're excited about having won the region title and having the opportunity to host the first-round of the state playoffs," Thomson Head Coach Terry Holder said. "This is an exciting time for our kids, our coaches and our supporters. This is where it gets fun. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose."
Coach Holder calls this time of the year "a different season. This is what you play for - is to get into the playoffs. I'm real proud of our kids."
Although the playoffs are a new experience for the Bulldogs, such isn't the case for Coach Holder, whose former baseball teams at Greenbrier and Evans grew accustomed to making the playoffs just about every year. During Coach Holder's tenure at those two Columbia County schools, his teams won a combined eight state championships.
After being retired for a while, he later was asked to take over the Thomson High baseball program. He is now into his fourth season with the Bulldogs.
He and his assistant coaches, Aaron Hall, Jason Osborn and Wes Harrell recently helped guide Thomson to their first region championship in 40 years.
Thomson's next opponent, the Rutland Hurricanes, (14-10) overall, finished fourth in Region 4-AAA with a record of 6-4.
"I know very little about Rutland," Coach Holder said. "I know they're capable of playing good baseball, based on the caliber of teams they've played this season."
One of the only concerns that Thomson coaches have going into Friday's double-header is with senior first baseman/starting pitcher Will Anderson, who is nursing a hamstring injury to his left leg. Anderson's injury occurred during the region championship last Thursday night.
"We're hoping he's going to be much better by Friday," Coach Holder said. "That's certainly a concern right now. We're hoping he'll be able to bounce back and play. If not, then we'll have to depend on someone else to step up for us."
Rutland Head Coach Wallace Pritchard said he's looking forward to the series against Thomson.
"I don't know a lot about the Thomson team, but I know they have to be a pretty good baseball team, because they won the region championship," Coach Pritchard said during a telephone interview on Monday. "I think there's more pressure on Thomson than us, because they won the region and we only finished fourth in our region."
The 41-year-old Coach Pritchard, a U.S. Navy veteran of more than 20 years, says his team has played more as a team of late than earlier in the season. He's hoping the success that the Hurricanes have experienced lately will carry over into the playoffs.
"We've had times when we played as a team and times when we didn't play as a team," Coach Wallace said. "The secret for any team is to play as a team, like a family."
Like Thomson, Rutland is a young ball club. While the Bulldogs are anchored by four seniors in Will Anderson, Zack Washington, Jake Unokur and Jonathan Talkington, the Hurricanes have only one senior, Chase Hopper, the team's first baseman.
The majority of the Rutland team is made up of juniors and sophomores.
Thomson took this past weekend off from practice, since they had been playing a lot of Saturday games of late.
"We thought that might make them feel ordinary again and rejuvenate them for the playoffs," Coach Holder said. "We're going to have our work cut out for us this week preparing for the playoffs. It's a real good feeling, though when you get to the playoffs. It's special."