MOULTRIE -- Colquitt County pitching coach Keith Croft was ailing a bit on Tuesday so hitting coach Tony Kirkland did much of the pitching during the Packers batting practice.

It might have been a good idea for Kirkland to have taken the mound anyway.

Kirkland throws from the left side and the Packers could face a pair of southpaws in their first-round state playoff doubleheader against Wayne County in Jesup on Thursday.

The Yellow Jackets have depended on their pitching all season in posting a 23-1 record, the best among the 32 team vying for the Class AAAAA state championship.

Wayne County's only loss was to North Cobb, which also made the playoffs with a 20-6 record.

The Yellow Jackets met Region 1's Ware County twice, winning 13-11 and 4-2.

Col-quitt County head coach Jerry Croft said Tuesday that he understood that Wayne County right-hander Ryan Aldridge was injured and is unlikey to pitch in the series.

Left-hander Barrett Browning, the other half of the Wayne County top pitching duo, is expected to start one of Thursday's games.

The Packers will take a .315 team batting average into the best-of-3 series, which would conclude with a 5 p.m. game on Friday if the teams split Thursday's doubleheader.

Senior infielder-pitcher Jake Mobley leads the team in hitting with a .447 batting average and has taken over the team lead in runs batted in with 21.

Mobley is the only starter batting over .400.

Catcher Max DeMott is hitting .354 with four home runs and 15 runs batted in.

Second baseman Will Southwell is hitting .343 and leads the team in extra base hits with 14, including 10 doubles, the team's only triple and a three home runs.

Right fielder Bernie Dahlberg is batting .340 and is second on the team in RBIs with 19.

Aaron Willis, expected to start on the mound in the first game of the doubleheader, is hitting an even .300 and has driven in 16 runs from the leadoff spot in the batting order.

The Packers have nine players who have driven in 10 or more runs and nine who have hit at least one home run.

But those who go Jesup to watch the games are unlikely to see much scoring.

Colquitt County's forte also has been pitching.

The 19-7 Packers team ERA is 2.06.

By comparison, in 1997, the year the Packers won the state championship and were led by Hayden Gliemmo's 1.48 ERA, the team ERA was 2.35.

"Our hitting has been up and down and our defense has for the most part been good," Jerry Croft said.

"But pitching has definitely been the most consistent part of our team."

Aaron Willis, who will start one of Thursday's games, is 7-2 with a 2.14 ERA.

The senior right-hander leads the team with six complete games and has walked just 11 batters in 55 2/3 innings.

Cody Green, the junior left-hander slated to start the other game, is 4-2 with a 1.04.

Aaron Eubanks, who will go if a Friday game is necessary, is 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA.

The Packers also could turn to Mobley in relief. The senior right-hander, who has not been needed often this season, 1-0 with a 1.97 ERA.

The winner of the Colquitt County-Ware County series will advance to the second round and meet the winner of the Griffin-East Coweta series.

East Coweta, which is hosting the series, is 21-3 and is the No. 2 seed from Region 4.

Griffin, the No. 3 team from Region 2, is 15-11.

As the No. 4 seed, the Packers will be unable to play host to a second-round series.

In other first round Class AAAAA matchups:

Groves (14-10) at Ware County (18-8).

Evans (19-5) at Warner Robins (13-13).

Lithonia (8-16) at McEachern (18-7)

Brookwood (17-9) at Lassiter (19-7).

North Cobb (20-6) at Lakeside Dekalb (20-3).

Roswell (17-7) at South Gwinett (12-13).

Berkmar (14-11) at Walton (19-5).

Southwest DeKalb (18-4) at Harrison (17-9).

Newnan (13-11) at Hardaway (24-2).

Brunswick (18-6) at Lowndes (16-8).

Centennial (17-9) at Parkview (23-2).

Marietta (19-6) at Redan (18-8).

Northside-Warner Robins (9-11) at Fayette County (21-3).

Coffee (19-7) at Glynn Academy (14-10).



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