For at least 16 Gwinnett County high school softball teams over five different classifications, the second season is about to begin.
Those teams, as well as a possible 17th team, start the road to Columbus with the opening round of the GHSA state playoffs beginning either Tuesday or Wednesday.
But even with the postseason so imminent, some teams must first play a bit of a waiting game.
For some teams like two-time defending Class A (Private) state champion Wesleyan, the waiting game will be a bit longer, but only to determine its first postseason opponent.
The Wolves (28-0) will undoubtedly be the top seed in the Class A (Private) brackets, which are determined through power rankings and will be finalized no later than Monday, and will have a first-round bye.
Coach Mary Stephenson doesn’t expect the wait to be distraction, nor does she expect her team to be distracted by trying to extend its its season long winning streak, which actually spans to 42 straight games when including the final 16 games from last season.
“I intentionally don’t mention it to them,” Stephenson said. “It’s something to be proud of because it’s evidence of our great performance so far this year, … but we try to stay focused on the next game. That’s the only thing that matters. If you talk to the kids, they say that our record is now 0-0. We’ve got to flip the page and check off the next box (on the list of goals).”
Other teams like Hebron Christian and Peachtree Ridge are also in a holding pattern pending the finalization of power rankings.
Holding a current No. 9 seed in the Class A (Private) power rankings, Hebron (15-10) will undoubtedly be part of the field for that class’ playoffs.
Peachtree Ridge (11-14), meanwhile, is awaiting word of whether it will be awarded Class AAAAAAA’s lone at-large bid, though the Lions currently hold the highest power ranking of any team from the class that hasn’t already qualified for the playoffs.
Meanwhile, for other county teams, there is a waiting game of another sort.
Teams like Mountain View and Norcross, for example, probably can’t wait for their first-round matchups to get going, especially the Bears (17-9), who have already broken the single-season school record for wins and will host a playoff series for the first time in program history when Newton rolls in for a first-round series beginning Wednesday.
But like Stephenson, Mountain View coach Mike Cason acknowledges that the biggest challenge his team faces is keeping from resting on its laurels.
“It’s really exciting,” Cason admits. “It’s a sense of accomplishment for our program. The girls have worked hard and they mentioned it as one of their goals at the beginning of the season. We’ve been on the road (in the playoffs) the last three years, so it’s nice and exciting to host. But at the same time, we’ve still got some work to do. We’re trying to keep level-minded about it.”
Other teams looking for a deep playoff run include region champions like North Gwinnett (6-AAAAAAA), Parkview (7-AAAAAAA), Grayson (8-AAAAAAA) and Dacula (8-AAAAAA), as well as other perennial powers like Archer, Brookwood, Collins Hill, Mill Creek and Buford and other qualifiers like Greater Atlanta Christian, Shiloh and Berkmar.