It’s time to play for keeps.
The LaGrange and Troup baseball teams have played a combined 20 games, but they’ll in essence be starting over today with the start of Region 5-AAAA play.
There are eight teams in the region, and they’ll each play 14 games.
The top four finishers will advance to the state playoffs.
Troup will begin its region schedule with a home game against Alexander, and LaGrange will be on the road against Shaw.
Troup coach Craig Garner said what makes the region so difficult is its depth.
“It’s definitely tightened up a lot,” Garner said. “The bottom half of the region has definitely picked it up.”
A year ago, the top four teams finished within a game of each other.
Columbus, not surprisingly considering its winning history, took top honors in the region, and Carrollton, Alexander and Troup finished tied for second.
Among those teams, Troup had the most success at state with a second straight trip to the state semifinals.
LaGrange finished just out of the playoff picture, and Sandy Creek, Shaw and Fayette County brought up the rear in the region.
“The teams that were toward the bottom last year have improved quite a bit,” LaGrange coach Todd Herrington said. “And the teams that were at the top, they’re still good, or have gotten better. It is going to be a grind, it is going to be a dogfight every time we step on the field.”
Garner said how teams line up their pitchers will be a key during region competition.
“It’s going to be a chess match,” Garner said.
Troup and LaGrange are both hoping to make strong first moves in that chess match today.
The challenge is a big one for Troup, which is playing an Alexander team off to an 8-2 start.
Alexander did see its five-game winning streak come to a close with a 10-0 loss to Lovett on Wednesday.
Troup won its second straight game and improved to 5-4 with Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Heard County.
Shaw, meanwhile, brings a 4-3 record into today’s game, and one of its wins came against a strong Harris County team.
In their final tune-up on Tuesday, the Raiders lost to Beauregard 6-5.
LaGrange (4-7) hasn’t played since March 11 when it lost Brookstone.
LaGrange was supposed to play Newnan on Monday, but that game was rained out.