The road to what the Gordon Lee Trojans hope will be a state baseball championship will begin on Friday when the Navy-and-White hosts Irwin County in the first round of the Class A public school state playoffs.
The best-of-three series will begin with a doubleheader at 4 p.m. A third game, if necessary, will be played at 12 noon on Saturday.
The 12th-seeded Indians of Region 2, coached by Peter Snyder, went 14-11 overall in the regular season and sported a 9-5 mark in region play.
Irwin County’s roster lists four seniors and five juniors on the roster.
The team’s top slugger is junior catcher/pitcher Austin Phillips, who leads the team in batting average (.432), slugging percentage (.682), home runs (3), RBIs (24), doubles (11), and hits (38).
Senior left fielder Clay Paulk is batting .383 this season with seven doubles and 26 RBIs, while junior shortstop Kyle Posey is hitting .429 with 36 hits, 27 runs scored, 15 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases.
Other top hitters include senior second baseman Brady Vickers (.310, 11 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 14 stolen bases), and freshman center fielder Jonathan Martin (.303, 1 HR, 13 RBIs).
As a team, the Indians are hitting a combined .308, but have just four home runs on the season.
Paulk is also the team’s ace on the mound. He enters the postseason with a 6-3 record and a 1.34 ERA. He has struck out 33 batters in a team-high 52 1/3 innings pitched.
Phillips is 2-3 with a 4.42 ERA, while senior Cody Maxon is 3-4 with a 5.69 ERA. Martin and Posey could also see time on the hill. Martin, a lefty, has 46 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings this season.
This year’s squad has four regular season victories against Class A playoff teams. They beat Turner County twice and took a game from both Hawkinsville and Schley County, who is the No. 3 seed in the tournament. Four of their five region losses came at the hands of Charlton County and Clinch County, who are seeded No. 2 and No. 8, respectively.
Irwin also knows a thing or two about postseason baseball success.
The Indians advanced to the Class A Elite Eight in 2010, losing in the quarterfinals to Walker. They lost in the first round in 2011, but swept Pelham in the first round last season before being eliminated by Savannah Christian.
Irwin won Class A state baseball titles in 1973, 1975, and 1997.
The winner of the series will face either No. 4 Baconton or No. 13 Turner County in the quarterfinals, which are scheduled for May 8-9.