TIFTON — For the first time since 1998, the Tift County Blue Devils will be in the baseball postseason.

Tift will enter the first round of the state Class AAAAA playoffs Friday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader at Lithonia. If the teams split Friday, the Devils would face the Bulldogs in a third-and-deciding game on Saturday at noon.

The playoff games will be a first for Tift County senior Austin Smith, who has been on the varsity squad since his sophomore season.

“This is the most excited I have been in the past three years of playing baseball,” Smith said. “It feels great. I would have loved to win a region championship, but it feels wonderful to be in the playoffs.”

Tift fell 3-1 last Friday against Lowndes in a game that decided the Region 1-AAAAA championship.

“Yeah, the region championship would have been nice, but the state is just a little bit bigger,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

Juniors Charlie Edwards and Israel Troupe have already experienced the state playoffs as football players this year. Both are excited about the chance to go back into state competition as baseball players.

“It is absolutely outstanding,” Edwards said. “It’s about time that we got back in to the state playoffs.”

Not only is the Devil third baseman happy about Tift being back in the postseason, he is also confident of his team’s chances.

“We can go all the way, if we just keep playing like we have been. I don’t think that will be a problem, because we are looking forward to the playoffs and we all want to do well,” Edwards said.

Troupe remembered the Tift football team’s trip to the state and “I am looking forward to going as a baseball player. There is nothing quite like a playoff atmosphere.”

He continued, “It feels nice to be in the playoffs, I am looking forward to going up there. I hope we can try to make a run and see how far we can go. I think we’re ready to do well and I know as a team we can do it.”

The Tift-Lithonia winner will face the Starr’s Mill-Jenkins series victor in the second round. That matchup will begin Wednesday.

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