CHULA -- After advancing to the final four of the GISA AA state playoffs in 2003, one of the goals of the 2004 Tiftarea Academy baseball team has been to make it one series further.

Today the Panthers begin play in the AA Georgia Independent School Association state playoffs hosting Nathaniel Green Academy.

The first game of today's first round doubleheader begins at 3 p.m. with the second set to start at 6 p.m. If a third game is necessary, it will be played Friday afternoon on the campus of Tiftarea Academy.

The Panthers are coming off an impressive regular season schedule that saw them finish with a 15-8 overall record, but more importantly 7-1 in Region 3-AA play. Tiftarea is on a roll having won its last three regular season games against region foes Terrell Academy and Southwest Georgia Academy, before closing out the regular season Monday with a win over Fullington Academy.

The lone region loss came earlier in the season to the defending AA state champion Brookwood Warriors from Thomas County.

Tiftarea Academy head baseball coach Chad Roberts has been pleased with the performance of his club during the last couple of weeks.

"We're getting a lot of production (offensively) from the middle to the bottom of our lineup," Roberts said following Monday's win against the Trojans of Fullington.

Against the Trojans, Roberts made some adjustments to his lineup in preparation for today's doubleheader. In order to give starting catcher Blake Phillips a little rest, Roberts started Brett Brandenburg, relegating Phillips to DH for the day.

Roberts also put four pitchers on the mound against Fullington, trying to give as many as possible some work. Drew Hobby started the game and got the win. Also taking the hill against the Trojans were Bryan Ellis, Justin Collins and Clint Karsten.

Friday against Southwest Georgia, senior Tanner Ivie picked up the win and Garrett Bowen got in an inning of work.

Bowen has recently returned to the team following an arm injury suffered during basketball season.

According to Roberts, the Nathaniel Green squad is a "scrappy" team. He also called the opponent a "line drive team."

"They don't hit it real far, but they can hit it hard," Roberts said.

As far as the Nathaniel Green pitching is concerned, Roberts is unsure of what to expect.

"We scouted them," he said, "but we didn't get to see their number one guy. But we're told that he's kind of a junk ball thrower. He did beat John Hancock, last year's AAA champion.

"Their other pitchers are not real overpowering, but sometimes that slow stuff will give you fits.

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