PETRO: It's playoff baseball time

By CAMAL PETRO,

Just like that, the high school baseball playoffs are upon us. I got a late start to normal coverage this season because of Hattiesburg’s run to the state championship in basketball, but it felt like this season flew by faster than normal. Once the month of May hits us, the postseason will be nearly over, state track will have come and gone and Southern Miss’ baseball season will be coming down to the wire.

Very shortly after that, we will be in the dog days of summer. But for now, let’s enjoy this wonderful weather while area teams begin their trek to Trustmark Park for the state high school baseball championship.

Like every season, we have a number of teams that could compete for a state title. Similar to what I’ve done in the past, I’ll go through and gage the temperature of each team as some get started in the postseason Thursday.

The Purvis Tornadoes and the Hattiesburg Tigers are my Top 2 picks for potential state championship runs. The Tigers have a talented roster and they’re as battled tested as a team could be, while the Tornadoes have run through their schedule with a 19-3 overall record.

Hattiesburg will play the winner of No. 2 Long Beach and No. 3 Wayne County in the second round, and the Tigers would match up with either No. 1 Natchez, No. 2 South Jones or No. 3 Stone in the third round. The two highest hurdles in the south, region foe Pearl River Central and West Jones, would be potential South State opponents.

I’m not all that well versed in 4A baseball this year, but it’s obvious that there are some really good teams in the south. West Lauderdale, East Central and Vancleave all pose as threats to Purvis, but Purvis has the pitching staff to compete with a lot of teams.

Next on the list for me is Sumrall and Oak Grove.

Like the Tornadoes, the Bobcats will have to face a tough 4A south team in nearly every single round. Sumrall’s pitching might be the difference in most series, but the offense will have to pick up eventually.

Sumrall has a tough matchup with Raymond in the first round, and it’ll only get harder with each series win.

The Warriors have been a pretty good example of a hot and cold team. Just when they start to put together a couple of wins in a row, they hit a snag. The offense has the capabilities to keep up with a lot of teams, but the pitching staff might not be enough to hang with teams deeper in the playoffs.

Oak Grove earned a first-round bye after winning the region, so it’ll play the winner of Pearl and Ocean Springs.

The next set of teams, Petal, Sacred Heart and Lumberton, all have reasons why a deep playoff run could be a stretch.

I’ll start with Petal, which enters its third straight postseason as the No. 3 seed. The injury bug has bitten the Panthers’ pitching staff hard and at the wrong time. With senior ace Hunter Dykes only able to hit and freshman Garrett Barger out for the season, Petal will have to piece it together with its pitchers, at least for the first round.

A matchup with Harrison Central, which nearly won its region, will be tough for the Panthers.

In 1A, Sacred Heart and Lumberton hit the road for the first game of Round 1, as the Crusaders head to French Camp Friday and the Panthers will take on a 19-1 Nanih Waiya. If I had to pick one of those teams to make it out of the first round, it would be Sacred Heart simply because of Lumberton’s opponent.

In MAIS baseball, the PCS Bobcats still have another week or so to its regular season.

Follow Camal on Twitter via @PineBeltSPORTS or email him: camal@PineBeltSPORTS.com