CONYERS - The Salem baseball team is looking for its postseason experience to pay dividends this year.
The Seminoles (22-4) open the Class AAAA playoffs on the road today in Atlanta against Lakeside-DeKalb (19-7) at 2 p.m.
Salem coach Chris Davis is hoping his squad can draw on the lessons learned in last year's first-round loss at Woodland.
"Sometimes it's hard for players to understand that this is a new season," Davis said. "Everybody is 0-0 and, if you lose, it ends. I hope we can take from last season that everybody is a good team from this point on and what you do from this point on you have to earn. There are no gimmies, no tomorrows or no resets."
The Seminoles, who finished third in Region 8-AAAA with a 20-4 record, come into the postseason on a roll, winning their last eight games. Salem hasn't lost since a 10-9 setback at Madison County on April 11.
Davis feels patience and limiting mistakes will be key in the series against the Vikings.
"We have to limit mistakes, whether it's on the field, hitting or on the bases," he said. "We will need to take advantage of any chance we get, whether it's getting cheap outs on them or scoring an extra run on their mistake. We need to stay relaxed and play our game, one pitch at a time. Lakeside has pitchers that will force you to be patient and, if you can't (be patient), they will frustrate you to death."
On paper, this first-round matchup could be one of the best in Class AAAA.
Salem enters the game ranked No. 10 in the latest poll. The Seminoles' four losses all came at the hands of playoff teams from 8-AAAA, which has three squads ranked in the Class AAAA top 10.
Lakeside (19-7) was leading Region 6-AAAA until losing to North Springs in its final region game. The Vikings were 13-2 in region play.
"They are a very good baseball team," Davis said. "They have two pitchers that have done a great job all season of stopping whoever they play. They have an offense that will score a few runs here and there, and then before you know it, they have a lot of runs on the board. They have beaten some quality teams this year and they will beat us, if we don't come ready to play our best."
The Vikings' other region loss came at the hands of St. Pius by a 6-2 score March 20. Lakeside-DeKalb also beat region champion Marist in their only meeting 3-2, also in March.
"I expect the two teams to be giving everything they've got," Davis said. "Each of these teams has been in some tight games throughout the season, so I don't expect anything less here. Both teams expect to win, but know it is not going to be given to them."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: If You Go
What: Class AAAA baseball playoffs, first round
Who: Salem Seminoles (22-4) vs. Lakeside-DeKalb Vikings (19-7)
When: 2 p.m. today (doubleheader)
Where: Lakeside-DeKalb High School