When the Villa Rica High School softball team travels down to Thomasville today, it'll be diving into the uncharted waters that is the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
The second-seeded Lady Wildcats (21-7) will play for a trip to Columbus when they take on Region 1 champion Thomas County Central (20-7) in a 5 p.m. doubleheader, with the rubber game set for Thursday at 5 p.m., if necessary.
Powered by the play of pitcher Abbey Gamble in last week's first-round sweep of Chamblee, the Lady Wildcats now enter an even bigger stage where the competition only gets tougher from this point forward. While deep postseason runs have certainly not been the norm for this program in recent years, the focus remains the same, according to second-year head coach Cody Skinner.
"If we do what we're supposed to do, we'll be fine," Skinner said. "I've made multiple postseason runs as a baseball player and won a state championship in the early 2000s, so I kind of know the lay of the land and how to get things done on the road. I'm so excited for our girls. We just want to go down to Thomas Central and do what we've been doing all year long, which is play Villa Rica softball."
The Lady Wildcats were able to get two full practices and a walk-through in this week before their sweet 16 matchup. The top-seeded Lady Yellow Jackets are riding an 11-game winning streak and pose threats up and down the lineup that the VR head man has scouted and prepped his team for this week.
"They've got a really good hurler," Skinner said, "She's been on the mound in a lot of their big-run, big-inning games and throws in the upper 50's to low 60's from what I've gotten from other coaches. They have two slap-hitters at the top of the lineup and can swing it pretty well across the board. There's a couple holes defensively that I think we can exploit and we're definitely going to try to get to them in Game 1."
The second-year coach ultimately re-emphasized the need to remember what got his team to the dance in the first place and sticking to its brand of softball that has worked all season long.
"What I've told our girls all this week is that if we can just go down there, take care of ourselves and play the way we've played all year, they should be able to win. If the better team beats them, then the better team beats them. It's mainly just about going down there and not beating ourselves on the road," Skinner said.