Welcome to the biggest week of the high school spring sports season.
And no day is bigger for area prep baseball and softball teams than today.
If a team wants to make it to Friday and play for the right to represent their school in next week’s TSSAA BlueCross Spring Fling, it must win today.
“It’s a big one,” said Central Magnet baseball coach Buddy Powers, whose team plays Sequatchie County in the Region 4-AA tournament at 5 p.m. today at Starplex. “A win (today) puts you in the game to get to the state tournament.
“You either win, or you go to the house. Every pitch and every inning are big. This is new for our kids. We just told them to embrace it and enjoy it.”
A win today for area baseball and softball teams not only locks up a berth in the region championship round played Wednesday, but also guarantees a Friday sectional game. All sectional winners advance to Spring Fling.
But there is no reason to look too far ahead just yet.
Four Rutherford County baseball teams and two softball teams play today in regional semifinals.
District 7-AAA baseball champion Riverdale hosts Columbia and ace Hayden Stone, a Vanderbilt signee. Riverdale coach Barry Messer will have both Memphis signee Trevor Sutton and Vanderbilt commitment Collin Snider available to pitch.
Riverdale defeated Columbia and Stone 1-0 in last year’s Region 4-AAA semifinals behind the arm of current Georgia Tech freshman Jonathan King.
“My sophomore year we had to go down to Columbia and lost 1-0,” Sutton. “Last year it was King and Stone, and we won 1-0. This year, it’s my turn.
“A home game makes it more interesting. We play pretty well here.”
Oakland travels to Tullahoma to face the District 8-AAA champion Wildcats at 6:30 p.m. today. The Patriots face Tullahoma ace Justus Sheffield, a Vanderbilt commitment. The Patriots will likely pitch Alex Ward, who is coming off a shut-out performance against La Vergne in the district tournament.
“It’s nothing we haven’t seen before,” Oakland coach Mack Hawks said. “We scrimmaged Tullahoma and saw all of their pitchers.”
Central Magnet faces Sequatchie County and Mississippi State signee Dakota Hudson at 5 p.m. today in the Region 4-AA tournament at Starplex. Powers said Hudson is ranked in the top 100 high school players in the country. Central Magnet will counter with Will Norfleet.
“It’s a great challenge,” Powers said. “He’s probably one of the top three pitchers in the state. The kids haven’t seen many radar guns, but they’ll see it (Monday) night.”
Middle Tennessee Christian faces East Robertson in 6:30 p.m. today in their Region 5-A baseball semifinal. Lefty Peyton Buckner will likely pitch for the Cougars, who like Central Magnet are coming off their first district title.
In softball, Smyrna hosts Tullahoma at 7 p.m. Riverdale goes on the road to face District 8-AAA champion Shelbyville. Riverdale, which has reached 10 straight Region 4-AAA semifinals, will be on the road for the first time in that span.
Three area soccer teams — Central Magnet, La Vergne and Smyrna — will begin their regional play on Tuesday. Soccer teams must win Tuesday to guarantee a Saturday soccer sectional appearance.
Central hosts Chattanooga Christian at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Richard Siegel Soccer Complex. La Vergne hosts Tullahoma at 7 p.m. in its Region 4-AAA. Smyrna plays at Columbia at 7 p.m.