The Rusk Eagles will open the state Class 3A playoffs against a familiar opponent in the Center Roughriders.
The 'Riders and the Eagles will duke it out in a best-of-three series that's scheduled to get under way at 7 p.m. Friday.
Game 2 is slated to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon, and if a third tilt is needed to decide things, that game would be played 30 minutes after the conclusion of the second game.
All games will take place at Morris Frank Park in Lufkin.
Center (17-12) defeated the Red and Black, 10-2, back on Feb. 21, but it can be said that Rusk is a much stronger team, having won its last 13-straight games than it was on that late February day that saw the 'Riders get the upper hand over the Eagles.
Head coach Jason Barnes' troops will take a 19-9 record into post season play, which includes a 12-0 run through District 19-3A.
The Eagles have given up just 14 runs in their last 13 games, with an emphasis being placed on quality pitching and strong defense.
“We feel like if we can continue to get solid pitching and defense that we will be able to play well in post season,” Barnes said. “Our kids got a taste of the playoffs last year, but we want to stick around a little longer this year and we have been talking about that as a team and focusing on playing at a level that will allow us to have some playoff success.”
Center and Jasper ended up tied for fourth place in District 20-3A.
Since the clubs split their regular season meetings, a play-in game was held Monday, with the 'Riders notching the win over Jasper to earn the right to face Rusk.
Rusk is led by a core of six seniors: Morgan Johnson, Vijay Stingley, Jadarian Skinner, Taylor Hamilton, Austin Ballew and Justin Daughety.
Junior-lefty Josh Raiborn is the team's ace pitcher, having tossed a couple of no-hitters this season.
Parker Clark and Jordan Roach have consistently delivered timely hits throughout the season.