Cobb County might the place to be over the next few days for those who like high school baseball.
Both Class AAAAAA state semifinal matchups will be within the county line as they get underway Saturday.
Pope will be the first to take the field when it hosts Buford in a 3 p.m. doubleheader. The second series will feature an all-Cobb matchup as Lassiter travels to Allatoona for a 4 p.m. doubleheaders.
If a third game is necessary in either series, it would be played Monday.
It marks the second straight season in which the three Region 6AAAAAA rivals have advanced to the state semifinals. Lassiter coach Kyle Rustay believes it is the survive-and-advance mentality of region play that has helped prepare the teams for the playoffs.
“Every couple of days, you are seeing great pitching,” Rustay said. “You can’t help but get better as the season goes on, once you get to region play.”
Lassiter will be looking to advance to its second straight state championship series, which will begin Thursday at Truist Park, but to say the Trojans have done things the hard way to get to this point is an understatement.
Their Game 3 victory over South Paulding on Tuesday marked the third straight series in which Lassiter lost Game 1, only to come back and win the best-of-three series. It was the fourth straight Game 3 the team had won in the playoffs, and it has won seven straight true road playoff series.
The Trojans will have to win an eighth straight road series if they want to play for a state championship again.
“It’s a short trip,” Rustay said of playing at Allatoona. “We don’t mind that. They are a quality, quality opponent. There’s no secrets at this point with anybody. Let’s just suit up and play.”
For Lassiter to win, it may have to juggle its pitching rotation. Team ace Reece Robertson appeared to suffer an elbow injury in Game 2 against South Paulding and may not be available. Robertson beat Allatoona 5-1 in mid-April. while the Buccaneers won the first meeting 4-3 in mid-March.
Allatoona comes into the game winners of 11 of its last 12 and will be playing its fourth straight playoff series at home.
Pope will also be seeing a familiar foe in its semifinal matchup. While not a region opponent, the Greyhounds knocked Buford out of the playoffs last year in what was considered a major upset, with the Wolves considered to be one of the top teams in the country.
Last year’s series was at Buford. This year, the games will be played at Pope.
“Not having to go on the road is great,” said Pope coach Chris Turco, whose team had to travel to the outskirts of Augusta to play Evans in the quarterfinals. “Our players know what it means to play at Jeff Rowland Field, and they are used to playing in front of huge crowds there. I think that could work as an advantage for our guys this week.”
Another advantage might come with the absence of Buford’s top pitcher. Dylan Lesko. The Wolves’ 6-foot-3, 195-pound ace, who was expected to be the first pitcher selected in this summer’s draft, underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks ago.
Turco, though, knows Buford is not just about one player.
“Any time you play Buford, you know it has plenty of weapons,” he said.
A Pope series victory would set up the first all-Cobb state championship series since 2018. That matchup featured the Greyhounds against Allatoona, which Pope won at AdventHealth Stadium in Rome.
While many eyes will be on the two Class AAAAAA series, there is the potential of an all-Cobb Class A Private state championship series, too.
Mount Paran Christian will travel to Wesleyan on Monday to begin their series with a 4 p.m. doubleheader, while Region 7A foe North Cobb Christian will head to Fellowship Christian for a 1 p.m. doubleheaader.
The winners will face off beginning May 24 at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.
For Mount Paran, the matchup against Wesleyan is a rematch of last year’s state championship series, which the Eagles won in two games. The Wolves are led by the potential top pick in this summer’s draft — Druw Jones, the son of former Atlanta Braves great Andruw Jones.
Mount Paran and Wesleyan both come in on a 16-game winning streaks. The Wolves’ run includes a two-game sweep of Whitefield Academy in the state quarterfinals earlier this week.
North Cobb Christian comes into its series winners of 15 of its last 18 games. After beating Holy Innocents’ in three games at home to open the playoffs, the Eagles beat a pair of No. 1 seeds on the road — First Presbyterian and Prince Avenue Christian — to advance to the semifinals.
Fellowship Christian has won nine of its last 10, but it needed three games to win its quarterfinal series against Savannah Christian earlier this week.