GUYTON — Teams with similar resumes met Friday to determine the one that would get the job of taking on Locust Grove in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
The Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets got the nod in convincing fashion, silencing South Effingham 4-0 in the third game of a best-of-three series.
Like the Mustangs, the Jackets absorbed a multitude of narrow losses against teams from larger classifications.
"I think we lost a total of nine games by two runs or less," Central coach Ryan Strickland said. "We played Lee County, Leon (County down in Florida, Lowndes. It's just been quality teams.
"We played 6A and 7A teams all year long for this purpose."
The tough non-region slates left the Jackets and Mustangs with mediocre records but lots of valuable experience for their young rosters. Central improved to 15-18 and South Effingham, which started 1-6, finished 16-14.
"(The Jackets) didn't have much experience coming in but they are battled tested now," Strickland said. "They compete. Every (opposing) coach compliments them on how much they compete and how much fun they have playing them.
"That's all you can ask."
South Effingham coach Johnny DeRing expressed similar sentiments about his team.
"To finish above .500 with our schedule says volumes about our kids," he said. "They don't know we played the toughest schedule but we did — by far. I scheduled a murderer's row.
"I don't know if that was smart. Maybe I wore them out. I don't know."
DeRing continued, "The scouting report on (Central) looked just like the scouting report on us — opportunistic. That's how we made our living all year. We got our leadoff man and took advantage in the games we won."
It was the Yellow Jackets who capitalized on the most chances Friday.
In the second inning, Jaylen Jones ripped a two-RBI single following walks to Tyler Carter and RJ Delaney.
Jackson NeSmith scored in the next frame after drawing a free pass. Slade Taylor and Carter each had an RBI during another two-run rally.
Delaney didn't let the Mustangs get untracked. He allowed only two hits before hitting his limit of 50 pitches in the fifth inning. He also threw 50 Friday in an 8-4 series-opening win.
In the opener, Delaney also slugged a home run, a rare feat at The Corral.
"When he thumped that early, it changed the momentum of the game," Strickland said. "Coming in, we talked about gaining momentum and not letting go. Historically. South Effingham is a tough place to play — with the crowd, the intensity and having a great program.
"This is a tough place to play and we wanted to get the momentum and keep it."