Classes 6A-2A semifinal previews

Posted 5/15/16

By Tim Morse

Georgia Dugout Preview

Locust Grove coach Stephen Phillips continues to be amazed at how his team handles adversity. The Wildcats have defeated Crisp County, North Hall and Heritage-Catoosa in decisive third games in the postseason.
"These guys are resilient ... they don't want what they have this season to end," said Phillips, whose Wildcats will play host to Veterans in the Class AAAA state semifinals today at 4:30 p.m.
"When their backs are against the wall, they find a way to come together. They don't point fingers, they just bond together."
Locust Grove (29-4) advanced to the semifinals for the first time in school history after eliminating Heritage-Catoosa last week. Ethan Lindow no-hit the Generals in Game 1, then Locust Grove lost a 5-4 decision in 10 innings in Game 2.
But freshman Nathan Crisp tossed a complete-game two-hitter to help Locust Grove win 5-0 in Game 3 to take the series. Crisp is 3-0 in elimination games. In 17 innings, he has allowed one run on 10 hits. He earned the victory in relief in a 7-3 Game 3 victory over North Hall in the second round.
While Crisp has been phenomenal, so has Lindow, Christian Young and Odlanier Rodriguez.
The Wildcats will need strong performances on the mound if they are going to cut down Veterans. Since a two-game losing streak in mid-April, the Warhawks have won eight of their last nine including playoff sweeps of Burke County and Woodward Academy. They eliminated Marist in the second round in three games.
Their offense appears to be peaking at the right time. In seven playoff games, Veterans (23-9) has scored double-figures in runs in four games. They scored 19 runs in a sweep of Woodward Academy last week.
The Warhawks are in the semifinals for the third straight season.

Eastside (23-9) at Buford (29-3), (DH), Monday, 4:30 p.m.
Eastside continues to play well after finishing as the third seed from Region 4. The Eagles, who are making their deepest penetration in the state playoffs since 2000, won't be intimidated when they play at Buford.
"I told the kids that we've been picked to lose every series we have played in the postseason," second-year coach Bruce Evans said. "It's not going to be any different this week. I hope when our kids get off the bus, they give it everything they have."
After splitting the first two games of the best-of-three quarterfinal series against St. Pius X, Eastside scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead, then its pitching staff pitched a scoreless seventh as the Eagles defeated the Lions 10-8 in Game 3 to win the series.
Defending state champion Buford (29-3) swept Spalding in the first round in a pair of one-run games, swept Bainbridge in Round 2 and ousted perennial state power Cartersville in two games last week in the quarterfinals. They have won 14 straight games.
Like last season, the Wolves have relied on strong pitching. Justin Glover and Griffin Jolliff are both 8-0. Austin Wilhite has also been dominant in relief.
Outfielder Brandon Marsh (.529, 2 HR, 22 RBIs) leads a potent offense capable of putting up big numbers.


Harrison (25-8) at Pope (26-6), (DH), Monday, 4:30 p.m.

No team has scored more than five runs in any game in the postseason against Pope's vaunted pitching staff. However, no team in Class AAAAAA may be hotter than Harrison.
The Hoyas will travel across Cobb County for the state semifinals to play Pope, who has swept Grayson, Valdosta and South Cobb to reach the semis. Harrison swept Tift County, Brookwood and eliminated Collins Hill in three games in the quarterfinals last week.
Pitcher Justin Williams allowed just three hits in six shutout innings as the Hoyas took Game 3, 9-2. The Hoyas mustered 10 hits, including Justin Fields' 3 for 5 performance. One of his hits was a homer.
The Greyhounds broke out the offense in a sweep of South Cobb last Tuesday. Starter Cameron Allison struck out 12 batters in six innings before yielding to Chase Smith, who worked a scoreless seventh.
Allison allowed South Cobb to put just six balls in play during the Game 1 victory, while Josh Lowe's three-run homer provided the Greyhounds with all the run support they needed. Parker Orr's double plated two runs, while Antonio Jareno had a single that scored a pair of runs.
Pope then swept South Cobb with a 12-0 rout in Game 2.

Walton (28-4) at Norcross (27-6), (DH), 5 p.m.
Walton has scored 45 runs in six postseason games and no offense may be putting the ball in play any better than the Raiders.
In a sweep of Lambert last week, the Raiders' Ben Spencer and Parker McCoy had two hits each in Game 1 to help starter Zac Kristofak to another postseason victory. Then in Game 2, Jason Avers went 3 for 3, while Jason Rooks finished 2 for 3 with a homer and a double.
Walton is making its third appearance in the state semifinals. The Raiders lost in the state championship series last year.
Norcross eliminated Etowah last week in a pair of one-run games. Patrick Hutton's RBI single scored pinch-runner Cole Hanna in the bottom of the seventh as the Blue Devils scored a pair of runs in the inning to win 3-2. Then in Game 2, the Blue Devils' Riu Peng hit an RBI double in the top of the eighth which proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 victory.
Norcross hasn't been this deep in the postseason since 1963 when the school captured the Class B state title. It's also just the third trip to the semifinals in school history.
First-year coach Reggie Stancil has tried to downplay the historic season.
“A lot of people have been looking up records and things like that (lately),” Stancil told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “I haven’t. I’ve just said we’re going to take things one game at a time. If we break records, we break records. If we don’t, we don’t. We’re just going to play baseball.”


Loganville (26-6) at South Effingham (22-11), (DH), Monday, 4:30 p.m.

Loganville and South Effingham will square off in the semifinals and feature two of the state's hottest teams. Loganville has swept East Paulding, Northside-Columbus and Kell in the postseason and have won 10 straight.
After falling in the first game of its second round series against Region 7 champion Forsyth Central, South Effingham has won four straight, including a sweep of Winder-Barrow last week when the Mustangs broke out the offense.
South Effingham put together a nine-run rally in Game 1 to win 12-9, then they erased a three-run deficit in Game 2 to win 5-4 and sweep its series with Winder-Barrow.
The Bulldoggs led 7-1 in Game 1 before the Mustangs roared back, sending 14 batters to the plate in the fifth inning and grabbed a 10-7 advantage en route to the win.
“They believe that until you get the 27th out, we’re not dead," South Effingham coach Ron Womack told the Effingham Herald. “We’re going to stay in it the whole way through. It doesn’t matter how many you put up. We feel like we can come back in and have a big inning like we did and get back in it. It was a huge job of fighting every pitch, every inning."
Then Davis Hare hurled a complete-game in Game 2 to earn the victory.
Loganville rolled to a pair of easy wins over Kell last week.
In Game 1, Justin Moss' RBI single in the seventh inning scored Carson McCullers to give the Red Devils a 3-2 victory. Drew Franklin earned the victory in relief of starter Timothy Elliott. McCullers went 2 for 3 to lead the offense.
In Game 2, Mitchell Miller struck out seven to earn the victory, allowing just five hits in six and one third innings. McCullers went 4 for 4 to lead the offense. Gabe Knight and Bryce Fowler collected two hits each to lead the Red Devils.

Houston County (26-8) at Gainesville (28-5), (DH), Monday, 4 p.m.
Gainesville, the defending state runner-up, is back in the semifinals for the second straight season, while Houston County is hoping to advance. If that happens, the Bears would play for their second state title in three years.
After splitting with Dalton in the quarterfinals, the Red Elephants never trailed en route to a 12-4 victory in Game 3. Jack Langford earned the victory and also went 3 for 4, while Banks Griffith went 3 for 5 to lead the offense.
Gainesville swept Alexander and LaGrange before beating Dalton in the quarterfinals.
Houston County swept Columbus, using a pair of big comebacks to advance. A three-run seventh helped Houston overcome a 4-2 deficit and win 5-4. Then the Bears scored four runs in the top of the seventh of Game 2 to tie the game at 7. The Bears scored the go-ahead run in the eighth to win 8-7.
Houston County swept Statesboro and eliminated Cambridge before sweeping past Columbus to make the semifinals.


Class AAA
Jackson County (19-15-1) at Blessed Trinity (31-1), (DH), Monday, 4:30 p.m.

Blessed Trinity has won 13 straight and swept Brantley County, Callaway and Franklin County by a combined 33-3 in six postseason games. But the two-time defending state champions will welcome a Jackson County squad that has won three straight elimination games in the playoffs and is in the semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Panthers run-ruled Ringgold 12-2 last week to advance, using a complete-game, four-hitter from Coleman Barbee, while Chris Griggs went 4 for 5 with a pair of homers.
Jackson County Tommy Fountain is stepping aside after the season to become a full-time minister after the season, and the Panthers don't want the season to end.
I’m proud of these guys,” Fountain told Main Street News. “Things didn’t go well early in the year, and we knew how good we could be."
Blessed Trinity's pitching staff has allowed just three runs in the playoffs. In a sweep of Franklin County last week, Hayden Lehman hurled a three-hit, six-inning shutout in a 5-0 Game 1 victory. Then John Michael Bertrand pitched a four-hit shutout in a 10-0 rout in Game 2.
Blessed Trinity's last loss was to Teurlings, La. in a spring break tournament. The Titans have swept 11 straight playoff series dating back to the 2014 season. Blessed Trinity's last loss in the postseason was a 6-4, Game 1 loss to North Hall in the second round in 2014. But the Titans rebounded to win Games 2 and 3 to win the state title.

Westminster (26-6) at Cedartown (28-4), (DH), Monday, 3:30 p.m.
Cedartown has swept Oconee County, Decatur and Calhoun to make the state semifinals in coach Doyle Kelley's second stint as the Bulldogs' head coach. Cedartown earned a thrilling victory in Game 1 of its series against Calhoun when Carlos Robinson's single in the 10th helped the team to a 12-11 victory.
Cedartown had tied the game in the bottom of the seventh when it scored three runs.
Then Jack Haney pitched Cedartown to a 9-1 victory to advance.
Westminster also pulled off a huge sweep in the quarterfinals when the Wildcats eliminated Westside-Augusta. Westminster combined to outscore Westside 24-3. They took Game 1, 11-1, behind Will Benson's 3 for 5 performance. He belted two homers and finished with five RBIs.
Then in Game 2, Blake Huber earned the victory on the mound and hit a grand slam in a 13-2 victory.
Westminster has swept Pierce County, Jefferson and Westside to reach the semifinals for the second straight season.


Class AA
Lovett (21-10-1) at Greater Atlanta Christian (25-8), (DH), Monday, 5 p.m.

This will be the fourth and fifth meetings this season between the Region 6-AA foes. In a three-game series during the middle of April, Greater Atlanta Christian took two of three from the Lions.
According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, GAC is hosting its first semifinal series in at least 12 years.
“It’s definitely going to be an intense atmosphere,” GAC coach Robbie Wilson told the newspaper. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Final Four game at home here. So I expect our crowd to really turn out on Monday."
The Spartans have swept Model, defeated Benedictine in three games and swept Bowdon to get to the semifinals.
Lovett has won 10 straight and swept Darlington, Model and Union County to get to the semifinals. The Lions' pitching staff has combined to allow just 12 runs in their six postseason victories.

Holy Innocents (24-11) at Wesleyan (26-8), (DH), 5 p.m.
After surviving stubborn Heard County in an elimination game last week in the state quarterfinals, the Golden Bears get a rematch with Region 6-AA champion Wesleyan.
Holy Innocents showed its resiliency against Heard County. Trailing 7-3 in Game 3, the Bears loaded the bases and got a grand slam from Matt Meadows to tie the game at 7 in the sixth inning. Then Ben Maitski scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh.
Holy Innocents finished as the No. 4 seed from Region 6 and dropped two of three against Wesleyan earlier this season.
If the regular-season is any indication of how this series will end, Holy Innocents has to like its chances.
“We lost all of our home region games this year,” Wesleyan coach Brian Krehmeyer told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “But still, we’re familiar with playing at home. We know the routine. The kids will be able to stay in school all day, which is good this close to exams. And we can take our round of batting practice and just walk on down to the field. So, it’s a good thing.”
The Wolves won all of their Region 6-AA games on the road
Holy Innocents has needed three games to oust top-ranked Gordon Lee, Harlem and Heard County. Wesleyan meanwhile, needed three games to beat Coosa in the first round, then swept Jeff Davis and Berrien.