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May 8, 2014

Panthers preparing for Augusta Prep

TIFTON — The GISA state baseball playoffs return to Chula this afternoon. The Tiftarea Academy Panthers look to keep up their recent hot streak as they face the Augusta Prep Cavaliers in a first round doubleheader at 3 p.m. Projected starters for the Panthers are Taylor Folsom and Bo Vickers.

Augusta Prep, the No. 4 seed out of Region 4-AAA, are not holders of the prettiest record in the state, but they won't be a club that Tiftarea head coach Brad Porter and crew overlook.

"They're very scrappy," he said. "They have a lot of kids who want to win and play quality baseball."

Even halfway across the state, he is aware of two big names for the Cavs: Nick Pylant and David Downing.

Pylant, he said, was their leadoff hitter and a starting pitcher. "He runs well and he's very good off the hill." He described Downing as "good as any hitter we'll see" and "a No. 1 pitcher I've heard great stuff about."

At one time,  the Panthers possessed a record of 1-5. They have rebounded well since then; Porter said they now have 16 wins and the region championship.

"Our team is doing a good job of working hard every day," he said.

Credit goes to his players. Aside from the usual consistency from Rob Flick, Cade Marlowe and Greer Howard, several new faces have joined the list of starters. Noah McMinn, he said, had been swinging the bat well lately and speedster Zach Beier had been hot. Then there's Devin Paulk. "He's blossomed," said Porter.

Watching his team grow has been especially nice, Porter said, considering all the college talent the team lost after making it to the quarterfinals last year.

"Coming back from last year and graduating talented seniors to winning the region again, it's a credit to the hard work they've put in."

The region schedule was were the Panthers sparkled. They only lost one game, to Southland Academy, and swept everyone else. That includes two big games over Deerfield-Windsor, including a 6-5 win in Albany, and Brookwood School.

Game three, if needed, will be played at 11 a.m. Saturday.

"We'll need to play good baseball to advance," Porter said. "We'll be 100 percent focused on Friday."

A pair of wins would mean another home series for Tiftarea, either against Dominion Christian or Westfield.

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