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Four local teams take next step in softball season

COVINGTON -- Hosting a state playoff on their home fields is a new thing for Rockdale and Alcovy, which both play in Class AAAAAA along with Newton, which will be on the road against No. 4-ranked East Coweta, while Heritage, which last hosted in 2010, will host a playoff game in the Class AAAAA tournament.

Even though Alcovy hosted before, it was not on its own field at Alcovy.

"Three years ago, we hosted Thomas County Central but we had to play at Turner Lake because our field was too wet," Alcovy head coach Monica Marks said. "It was important to the girls to win the region tournament and get that No. 1 seed to give us a better draw."

All games will be played today, with Rockdale and Heritage starting at 4 p.m. while Alcovy and Newton will begin at 4:30 p.m.

Alcovy, which is ranked third in Class AAAAAA according to GACA/PrepCountry.com and has a 25-4-1 record, will host No. 4 seed from Region 3-AAAAAA Westlake (10-13) Lions.

Even though Marks does not know much about the Lady Lions, she does not feel she needs to.

"We just have to worry about ourselves. If we play well, we could beat anybody," Marks said.

Starting the first game in the circle for the Lady Tigers will be senior Chelsea Murphy, who has done a good job for Alcovy including getting the Lady Tigers a 4-0 win over Rockdale in the Region 2-AAAAAA tournament. Taking over for her in the second game will be freshman Kalia Johnson. As long as the defense plays solid behind its pitchers, Marks has confidence that the team will come out on top.

"We're just going to do what we've always done as far as play solid defense behind our pitchers," Marks said. "We have to try to score early to take the pressure off. It starts with the pitching and the defense."

In the Rockdale (16-14) Bulldogs and Douglas County game, Lady Bulldogs head coach Jason Arrington is trying to look past their opponent's record of 7-22. He's trying to get his girls to focus on the fact that they made it to the playoffs for a reason.

"They have to be a pretty tough in fielding, pitching and hitting," Arrington said. "They come from a tough little region."

If any team knows anything about not judging a team by its record, it's Rockdale, which started the season with a 2-8 record before finishing strong, winning six of the last nine to finish as Region 2-AAAAAA runner-up. Two of the three losses were in the region tournament to Alcovy.

"It's definitely the right time to be playing good softball," Arrington said. "We'll try to continue our little run and see what we have."

For the Lady Bulldogs to make it to the second round, they must continue playing defense well behind the pitching of Miasia Mayer. Offensively, Rockdale does not seem to have a weakness at the plate as everyone is doing what they have to do in order to get the win.

"The big thing is letting our defense work," Arrington said. "It's kind of been a strong suit of ours lately. Towards the end of the season, we haven't given up anything cheap.

"The thing is, we try to get on base anyway we can, then let our big bats do their job and knock in the runs. Toward the end of the season, the bottom half of the lineup has been producing as well. There's not really a weak spot."

Making this game even more special is that it is the first time Rockdale has hosted a state playoff game on its home field. It's played home postseason games at Earl O'Neal Park in the past.

"We've only had the field for four years at the school," Arrington said. "We've just been setting goals throughout the season and we've been accomplishing them. They're really excited and are ready to go."

In the Class AAAAA tournament, the No. 7 ranked Lady Patriots (28-3) will host the North Paulding (14-9) Wolfpack.