GLUCKSTADT - The Germantown Mavericks will host Saltillo in the second round of the playoffs at 6 p.m. tonight at home.

Looking at the schedule, you'd think the Region 3-5A champs are limping into the playoffs after going 1-3 in four games last week, but that's by design. The Mavs (21-7) played three 6A teams - Terry, Northwest Rankin and Clinton (twice) - that were also enjoying first-round playoff byes.

"We've played a tougher schedule the past week than anyone else has," Germantown coach Brian Hardy said. "We haven't seen a pitch under 82 or 83 miles per hour in the past week, so we ought to be ready."

Hardy said he's hoping that those games against tough competition will help his team be better prepared for Saltillo (16-16), who they admittedly don't know much about.

Coach Johnny Bolen's Tigers finished third in the Region 2 behind New Hope and Oxford. They defeated Vicksburg in a best-of-three series last weekend after rallying from a game one loss to win the second and third games 8-7 and 6-5, respectively.

Hardy said he took the opportunity to ride over to Vicksburg to see the first game of the series.

"They look pretty solid," he said. "They made the routine plays, and looked like a typical playoff team - the kind of team that if you don't play well, they'll beat you."

The Mavericks have been good all season: besides last week, when they lost to powerhouses Northwest Rankin and Clinton, Germantown hadn't dropped back-to-back games since March 7.

Part of that success is due to the team's pitching, which Hardy said he considers to be just "above average," but deep. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he'll start Connor McGraw in game one and Ross Buckley in game two. If they pitch the way they are capable of pitching, there likely won't be a game three.

"The advantage we have in a three-game series is that we may not have outstanding pitching, but we have six guys who are above average," Hardy said. "And we have no hesitation in running them out there."

In a North 5A with a lot of parity, Hardy added that he believes the teams who get hot this week can likely ride the momentum deep into the playoffs. If the bats come alive, don't be surprised to see Germantown advance to face the winner of the Lewisburg-Oxford series next week.

"We've been streaky offensively," Hardy added. "There's been times this season when we were simply unconscious at the plate, and hitting the ball all over the field. We need that to start again."