Lowcountry baseball, softball teams begin title quests

Hanahan’s Ashley Meckley (right) slides into home ahead of the throw to Stratford catcher Madison Ackerman in a game played earlier this season. Both teams are in the playoffs. (Rob Gantt/Goose Creek Gazette)

High school baseball and softball teams around the Lowcountry begin their championship drives as the lower state district playoffs begin.

The official start of the postseason is Thursday, though several area teams opted to play their first-round games on Wednesday due to potential bad weather on Thursday.

While every team entertains hopes and dreams of completing the playoff run with a state championship in mid-May, the reality is that the Lowcountry has only a handful of teams considered legitimate state title contenders.

In baseball, Class AAAA has three teams ranked in the state’s top 10 and all three are capable of winning the lower state championship.

Region 8-AAAA champion Ashley Ridge (19-6), Region 7-AAAA champion James Island (18-5), and Region 8-AAAA runner-up Summerville (18-5) all have solid pitching depth and enough offense to manufacture runs in what should be highly competitive lower state games.

The lower state AAAA bracket includes top-ranked Carolina Forest and second-ranked River Bluff, which hosts defending state champion Wando in a first-round game and is matched in the same district bracket as Summerville.

In AAA, the only local teams involved are Region 8-AAA champion Berkeley and runner-up Hanahan. Berkeley has been a final four team in the lower state in each of the past two years and sports a 19-5 record. The Stags were ranked third in the final statewide AAA poll.

Bishop England, ranked second in Class AA, is the hottest team in the area and should make an extended run in the playoffs. After starting the season 1-5, the Bishops went 13-4 down the stretch, including a 9-2 record in April. Bishop England knocked off Ashley Ridge, Hanahan and Berkeley in the final week of the regular season.

Charleston Math and Science is a No. 1 seed in the Class A district playoffs. The Riptide won a third consecutive Region 6-A championship and extended their region winning streak to 22 games this season.

In softball, Region 8-AAA champion Hanahan is considered a major threat in the AAA lower state playoffs. Hanahan reached the lower state finals last year before losing to Hartsville and most of that team has returned to post a 16-2 record this spring.

Berkeley, which finished runner-up to Hanahan, is another top 10 team capable of making a long run in the postseason.

Ashley Ridge, Stratford and Summerville are considered the top AAAA teams in the area. Ashley Ridge won the Region 8-AAAA title, unseating Summerville. Stratford won its 18th region title in the last 28 years while Summerville, the defending lower state champion in AAAA, closed the regular season by winning six of its final seven games.

(Thursday unless noted)

CLASS AAAA

South Aiken at James Island

Wando at River Bluff (WED)

Sumter at Summerville

Fort Dorchester at West Florence

CLASS AAA

Midland Valley at Berkeley (Friday)

Aiken at Hanahan (Friday)

CLASS AA

Woodland at Bishop England

Loris at Timberland

Silver Bluff at Academic Magnet

CLASS A

Bethune Bowman at Charleston Charter

St. John’s at Bamberg-Ehrhardt

Allendale-Fairfax at Military Magnet

Cross at Branchville

Class AAAA

River Bluff at Stratford

Cane Bay at North Augusta

Wando at Lexington

White Knoll at West Ashley

Socastee at Ashley Ridge

Conway at Summerville

Fort Dorchester at West Florence

Class AAA

Airport at Berkeley (Friday)

Swansea at Hanahan (Friday)

Class AA

Timberland at Aynor

Bishop England at Barnwell

Academic Magnet at Edisto

CLASS A

Allendale-Fairfax at Baptist Hill

Estill at Cross

Military Magnet at Branchville

Burke at Bamberg-Ehrhardt