Be it high-profile tournaments or an opportunity to rest during spring break, Horry and Georgetown county softball teams know their first week back means a return to the most important portion of the regular-season slate.
The playoffs are less than a month away, and numbers won’t lie.
Amid tightly contested races in several regions, the next three weeks determine not only which squads will make the postseason, but also which ones are positioned for a run once they get there.
“The competitiveness of our region is what makes this part of the season exciting,” St. James coach Adam Jones said. “Each game is a challenge, and when it’s all said and done, the playoff positions are usually only separated by a few runs.”
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So far, Region VII-AAA is the most hotly contested of the Grand Strand’s divisions. St. James, North Myrtle Beach and Georgetown are all 3-1 in region play, with each of them owning a win (and a loss) over one of the others. Myrtle Beach is just a game behind at 2-2.
The early logjam in Region VI-AAAA involving local teams is for second place, where Conway and Socastee are tied with Sumter at 2-2 behind 3-1 South Florence and West Florence. With Socastee’s previous victory over South Florence, a significant shift is only one night of games away.
Defending state softball champion Aynor opened the week undefeated in Region VIII-AA with all-important wins already over Dillon and Waccamaw. The Blue Jackets have three region games in the next four days – including a doubleheader against Mullins on Tuesday – and could lock up a top-two finish by staying undefeated this week.
The local baseball teams are getting into the second half of their region schedules this week with the same type of drama. While Carolina Forest stands atop Region VI-AAAA at 4-0, Socastee and Conway sit in a three-way tie for fourth place with South Florence.
One classification down, St. James is in first place in Region VII-AAA at 4-0, with North Myrtle Beach one game back at 3-1 and Myrtle Beach (and Lake City) close behind at 2-2.
That same narrow divide is present in Region VIII-AA, where Aynor (4-0) is one game ahead of Waccamaw (3-1). The Warriors, 9-6 overall and recently ranked No. 1 in Class AA, are also one spot ahead of Loris, which is 2-2 in the division entering this week.