While the Highway 707 teams in baseball and softball have already started preparing for their Class 5A first-round playoff matchups next month, the rest of the Horry County diamond sports can consider this moving week.
Or, if you prefer, separation week.
Entering Monday, three area softball squads and four in-county baseball teams have already qualified for the playoffs. That list includes the baseball and softball teams from Socastee and St. James, Aynor’s softball and baseball programs and the Green Sea Floyds baseball squad.
Meanwhile, eight combined teams from the two sports already know they’re out.
Who’s still alive but hasn’t yet qualified? That’s where things get interesting.
The North Myrtle Beach softball and baseball teams and the baseball squad from Myrtle Beach each hold various degrees of likelihood for making the abbreviated 2021 playoffs — ones that were cut in half amid the shortened pandemic-related season.
Here’s where each of those teams stack up entering their games this week.
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH SOFTBALL
Last week stung for the Chiefs.
After entering last Monday’s game with a 4-1 region record, Bobby Henderson’s team’s first lost a make-up game to Hartsville on Monday. In that one, North Myrtle Beach led 2-0 heading into the seventh inning before the Red Foxes dropped four runs in the final frame to win.
Two days later, the Chiefs fell 4-2 at Darlington. Then, on Friday, Darlington overcame an early one-run deficit and eventually won 4-3.
That dropped North Myrtle Beach to 4-4 in Region VI-4A, a won-loss tally that currently equates to fifth place. That’s the rough part numerically. On the field, however, the Chiefs will have every opportunity to climb back up into the all-important third-place spot by week’s end.
North Myrtle Beach will play two games against West Florence (currently 4-2 and in third place). Additionally, fourth-place squad South Florence (3-1) has two games against powerhouse Hartsville.
So, if the Chiefs win both games this week, all that likely stands between them and a playoff berth is another pair of victories the following week over South Florence.
MYRTLE BEACH BASEBALL
The Seahawks, as we broke down after Friday’s loss to Hartsville, have put themselves in ultra-tough positioning heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
At 2-4 and currently in fifth place in Region VI-4A play, Myrtle Beach could be eliminated from a top-three finish at any point in time with the right combination of a loss by it and win or two from around the region. There is next to no statistically relevant way in which Tim Christy’s team qualifies for the playoffs with fewer than five wins in those last six games (against Wilson, South Florence and then North Myrtle Beach).
Realistically, it may take six victories.
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH BASEBALL
Yeah, this is kind of a big week for the Chiefs.
North Myrtle Beach — 6-2 and currently in third place in Region VI-4A — suffered both of those losses to current region leader Hartsville. So while it would take two Red Fox losses for the Chiefs to even be in consideration for the title and No. 1 playoff seed, it’s safe to say that all eyes are on Tuesday and Friday against West Florence.
The Knights, who split with Hartsville but would likely lose any tiebreaker scenario against them, are the Chiefs’ best chance of making a move in the standings. And, yes, it could go either direction.
Win two, and North Myrtle Beach is all but guaranteed to make the postseason. Lose two, and the Chiefs are scoreboard watching from around the region.
But at this point, simply getting in may not be enough to make a real run in the last two weeks of May. Based on how the at-large teams have been placed so far this year, it stands to reason that the third-place team from Region VI-4A will be sent to James Island in the opening round of the state playoffs. The Trojans are similarly loaded on the mound as the squads throughout the Beach/Pee Dee region. They’ll also have home-field advantage.
Needless to say, getting an all-important pair of wins and a potential tie-breaker locked up now could play out for weeks to come.
The prevalent theme this spring was to front-load the region schedules, get the all-important games out of the way and then use the final two-three weeks of the regular season for make-up games or non-region prep games.
Region VI-5A did it to near perfection. Everything is already decided.
Region VI-4A coaches are now seeing where their region’s lack of forward planning may affect them via attrition battles. There are examples in both baseball and softball.
In the latter, South Florence’s need for last-minute region games is going be the talking point of the standings starting next week. The Bruins will be forced to play six region contests in the final 11 available days prior to the playoffs.
That includes two home-and-home series against North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach between May 3-7, as well as its rivalry series against West Florence the following week.
In baseball, where pitching match-ups have dictated the narrative this season, it’s even more direct.
The region scheduling did North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach no favors. Those two teams are expected to be facing off with either playoff berths or seeding on the line during their series on May 10 and May 13.
If anything is left to be determined, they’ll be forced to throw their best two pitchers. That’s a great thing, until you consider that the playoffs are scheduled to begin on May 15
That means whoever benefits from that series may not have some key arms available for the first game of the playoffs, a likely road game against another region champion.
AYNOR BASEBALL’S WAIT-AND-SEE WEEK
Chad Sarvis was feeling pretty lucky when his squad topped Waccamaw in a mistake-prone game last Tuesday. After his team got beat badly in the return contest Friday, those feelings turned to anxiety.
The Blue Jackets have already clinched a playoff berth. However, their chances of a region title and a home playoff game now rest on the hopes of Georgetown and Waccamaw splitting their series this week (while Aynor sits idle), and then winning a one-game playoff against Georgetown at neutral site.
The Region VII-3A bylaws this season — again, thanks to playing region games early — eliminated the runs-based tie-breakers in most scenarios. Instead, the region elected for a one-game playoff.
There are two scenarios where Aynor would be involved in a one-game playoff. The first is that Georgetown and Waccamaw split, leaving Aynor and Georgetown in a one-game playoff with first and second divvied up among those two. If Waccamaw sweeps Georgetown, the Warriors and Blue Jackets then play out that same set up.
If Georgetown sweeps Waccamaw, then the Bulldogs take first, Aynor falls to second and Waccamaw is eliminated.
UPDATED REGION STANDINGS
1. SOC 10-2
2. STJ 7-5
3. CF 6-5
4. CON 4-8
5. SUM 2-9
-Region play is complete
1. WF 5-1
1. HART 5-1
3. NMB 6-2
4. SF 4-2
5. MB 2-4
6. DAR 2-7
7. WIL 0-8
-This week’s series (Tuesday-Friday): MB-WIL, HART-SF, NMB-WF
1. AYN 6-2*
2. GT 5-1
3. WAC 4-2
4. LOR 1-9
5. DIL 0-6
* - Clinched playoff berth
-This week’s series (Tuesday-Friday): WAC-GT, LOR-DIL
1. STJ 10-2
2. SOC 7-5
3. CON 6-6
4. SUM 4-7
5. CF 2-9
-Region play is complete
1. HART 5-0
2. DAR 8-1
3. WF 4-2
4. SF 3-1
5. NMB 4-4
6. WIL 0-8
6. MB 0-8
-This week’s series (Tuesday-Friday): NMB-WF, HART-SF, WIL-MB
1. AYN 6-0*
2. DIL 6-1*
3. WAC 2-4
4. LOR 1-5
4. GT 1-6
* - Clinched playoff berth
-This week’s games: AYN-DIL, WAC-LOR (Monday); AYN-WAC, GT-LOR (Thursday)