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Salem, Heritage rivalry has region signifigance
The pitch: Garrett Needham throws a pitch during a recent game for the Salem Seminoles. Salem will play Heritage starting Monday in a pivitol Region 8-AAAA series. - photo by Darrell Everidge

Anytime Heritage and Salem meet on the baseball diamond, it's sure to be an exciting matchup.

The 2012 matchup, starting Monday at Heritage, will be even more so due to the Region 8-AAAA standings, which has the Patriots and Seminoles close together.

Prior to Friday night's games, which finished after deadline, the Patriots were in second place with a 7-3 record and 12-7 overall. The Salem Seminoles were ranked 5-5 in the region and 7-12 overall.

Heritage has won three straight, beating Madison County 8-1 and Cedar Shoals 5-1 and 5-4. Prior to that streak, the Patriots lost three straight to end a five-win streak.

The Salem Seminoles have now won three out of four after sweeping Rockdale County this week.

Salem defeated Clarke Central March 29, before losing to Winder-Barrow and then beating Rockdale 10-1 and 15-4 on Monday and Wednesday.

"Above, obviously being a big rivalry game every time Salem and Heritage get together to play, we're tied for second place in the subregion," Salem coach Chad Kitchens said. "That's what we're shooting for. We both want to be No. 2 in the subregion to be runner up and a better draw in the region playoffs."

The Salem Seminoles are also looking toward this week's series to avenge two losses in 2011. The Patriots defeated Salem 9-8 on April 4, 2011 and 4-3 on April 20.

"Last year we lost by one run both times to them, which stung throughout the whole offseason," Kitchens said. "These games are very important for the season and for the program."

Salem's program has, up to this point, salvaged a season that looked off to a poor start to begin 2012.

The Salem Seminoles won two of its first three games, before going on a seven game skid. It then lost three out of four before putting its winning streak together.

"We started off so poorly, going 2-8 after our first 10 games, and we still struggled off and on after that," Kitchens said. "We're now starting to play our best baseball of the year at the right time, which is a good thing."

The Salem Seminoles now face their biggest games of the season, against one of the better teams in the region in Heritage.

"Their pitching is outstanding, defensively their very good and they don't make a bunch of mistakes," Kitchens said. "If you make a bunch of mistakes they're going to beat you very handedly. They're well coach and they know what they're doing."

Kitchens is hoping that will carry them into this week when the Salem Seminoles play a home-and-home with the Patriots before hosting Flowery Branch Thursday.

"The best way to end it going into the region playoff is playing a rival with a lot on the line," Kitchens said.