Top-ranked White Knoll hosts Region 5 rival Aiken in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs on Thursday.
Elsewhere, Blythewood and Spring Valley, the top two seeds from Region 4, have first-round home openers, while Lexington and Irmo hit the road for first-round outings.
White Knoll (24-2) went through the Region 5 campaign unscathed (14-0) and seemingly has a great shot at becoming the first team in school history to reach the state championship series. The Timberwolves have been very good since debuting in 2000, but have never rated a title shot. WK made it as far as the Final Four in 2004 and 2005.
Joey Lawson’s team features plenty of hitting from Codee Yeske (.517), Maddie Sharpe (.467), Brittney Williamson (.421), Lydia Trexler (.373), Nicole Stancil (.310) and Hannah Holbrook (.300).
Kaylin White (13-1, 0.74 ERA) and Savannah Terrapin (11-1, 1.48 ERA) share pitching duty.
Blythewood (19-7) hopes to send off five senior stalwarts in style this spring. The Bengals won the Region 4 championship for the second year in a row and has never failed to finish lower than first or second in five years of varsity play. But playoff glory has been elusive. Blythewood has been to the Elite Eight once, going 0-2 in the 3A Upper State tournament in 2008.
Seniors Kelly Owens, Hillary Stewart, Tiffany Harris, Paige Hartfield and Paige Owczarczak are the face of the program, and want to go out with a bang.
Owens, who was a varsity starter as a seventh-grader at Ridge View before Blythewood opened in 2005-06, is hitting .476 with 37 runs, 29 RBIs, 11 doubles, four triples, three home runs and 17 steals. Stewart is batting .540 with 31 runs, 41 RBIs, 17 doubles, three triples and four homers. Harris stands at .451 with 26 runs, 34 RBIs, nine doubles, two triples and two home runs. Owczarczak is batting .430 with 27 runs and 14 RBIs. Hartfield stands at .382 with 38 runs and 29 steals.
Owens is also a mainstay in the circle, sporting a 15-3 record, a 1.27 ERA , 76 strikeouts and just eight walks.
The Fab Five receives solid offensive support from freshmen Bailey Newman (.367, 14 runs, 17 RBIs) and Ellen Cordova (.286, 17 runs, 17 RBIs). Cordova is also 4-0 with two saves and a 1.75 ERA as the second option in the circle.
The Bengals open District IV action at home against Fort Mill.
Spring Valley (16-10) has been on a roll of late, and enters the playoffs with 14 wins in its final 16 regular season games. The Vikings earned a home game in the District II opener against Clover for bagging the No. 2 seed in Region 4. SV opened on the road last season for the first time in at least 15 years.
Shannon Warnick, Mariaha Sanborn, Rebecca Wiesehahn and Morgan Barker are the Viking offensive leaders. Barker and Rachel Mellin share the pitching chores.
Meanwhile, Irmo and Lexington face long drives to the Lowcountry. Irmo plays at Summerville and Lexington is of to face Beaufort.