Football is back and baseball is rolling down the stretch with pennant races heating up. I was talking to some of my friends the other day about how weird it will be for the Braves to be relevant in September again this year as for the last several years, I’ve been fully focused on football by this point of Atlanta’s season. Should be a fun time. Here’s a few topics I’ve been thinking about both on the local scene and further reaching as well:
Calhoun, Sonoraville Softball look to be set on course to Columbus
Both the Calhoun and Sonoraville softball teams earned a trip to Columbus last season for the Class AAA Elite Eight. And judging by the first month-plus of the season, it would be a surprise if either didn’t make the trip this year.
The Lady Jackets and Lady Phoenix have looked impressive in the first half of the season as they have each made it clear that they are state title contenders in Class AAA and more than likely on a collision course for the Region 6-AAA title game. The rivals have played twice and split the meetings with each being decided by one run. Sonoraville won the first meeting 1-0 on the back of a dominant pitching performance by Kristen Davis and a clutch, game-winning hit by Shayna Dutton. Calhoun turned around and earned a 4-3 win in the second game in extra innings on a walk-off hit by Molly Walker after the Lady Phoenix had rallied from down 3-0 to tie the game.
I’ve covered both of the matchups and I can say for sure that both games have been played at a high level and both have been playoff-like atmospheres. Both teams boast ace pitchers, incredible defense and potent lineups. Both have a legitimate shot at winning a state title.
There is still a lot of softball to be played and a lot of different variables that could happen, but don’t be surprised if these two teams do battle once again in the Region 6-AAA Tournament. Luckily, this year’s 6-AAA Tourney is at the new Calhoun Rec Department fields off McDaniel Station Road.
Beyond that, don’t be surprised if they see each other in Columbus. That would be a longer drive for folks here, but I have no doubt that each would bring a huge crowd.
I wouldn’t mind that one bit as the sports editor of this paper. I think that would be one of the highlights of my career here would be covering a state championship game involving two of my local teams squaring off. I’m not trying to jinx anything, but I can hope, right?
Braves still in good shape in division
Like I said earlier, it’s been a few years since Atlanta was toward the top of my sports priorities list in September, but I’m excited to have that back in my life. I’ve forgotten how much pride I used to take in looking at the NL East or NL Wild Card standings, worrying about the Braves’ magic number and projecting possible playoff matchups.
Despite the Braves being swept by the Red Sox this week (and Wednesday’s collapse topping it off), I still feel good about the Braves’ chances of winning the NL East. As of writing this column (and seeing my Ozzie Albies bobblehead nodding next to my computer screen), Atlanta still has a three-game lead over Philadelphia in the division.
Looking at each team’s remaining schedule, the Braves have the tougher opponents, including starting a seven-game swing on the west coast tonight (Thursday) in Arizona and finishing it in San Francisco. The Braves then come back home to host three against Washington, three against St. Louis and four against Philadelphia before finishing the season with three at the New York Mets and three at Philadelphia.
The Phillies are at the Mets for three, then come back home for three against Washington, three against Miami and three against the Mets, come to Atlanta for four, visit Colorado for four and then round things out with three at home against the Braves.
Whoever made the schedule knew what they were doing apparently. How great would it be for the division title to come down to that last series of the year in Philadelphia? On the other hand, it would be a lot less stressful if the Braves wrapped it up before then. Whatever the case, I’m excited for September baseball, and it’s been a while since I’ve said that.
Super Bowl and college weekend picks
The NFL season starts tonight as I write this column with Atlanta visiting Philadelphia so I think it’s time to reveal my Super Bowl pick. I’m not even being a homer in saying that I truly believe it is the Falcons’ time this year. They were so close a couple years ago, and if not for injuries and a few bad decisions in the divisional playoff game against the Eagles last year, I feel like the Falcons would’ve been back in the Super Bowl again. I honestly think it’s Atlanta’s time. I don’t see another NFC team that is better.
So my Super Bowl pick is Atlanta over….wait for it, New England. I think the Falcons get their revenge and end the Atlanta Sports Curse. How incredible would that be? We can hope, right.
As far as this weekend’s college picks, I’ve got Georgia Tech with a close win at South Florida, Georgia pulling away in the second half to beat the Gamecocks by two touchdowns, Clemson earning a relatively easy win at Texas A&M, Florida rolling over Kentucky, Stanford winning a physical battle over USC and for my upset of the week I have Arizona State over Michigan State.