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)
South Aiken at James Island
Wando at River Bluff (WED)
Sumter at Summerville
Fort Dorchester at West Florence
Midland Valley at Berkeley (Friday)
Aiken at Hanahan (Friday)
Woodland at Bishop England
Loris at Timberland
Silver Bluff at Academic Magnet
Bethune Bowman at Charleston Charter
St. John’s at Bamberg-Ehrhardt
Allendale-Fairfax at Military Magnet
Cross at Branchville
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
Airport at Berkeley (Friday)
Swansea at Hanahan (Friday)
Timberland at Aynor
Bishop England at Barnwell
Academic Magnet at Edisto
Allendale-Fairfax at Baptist Hill
Estill at Cross
Military Magnet at Branchville
Burke at Bamberg-Ehrhardt