Championship previews (Class 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A Public, 1A Private)

Posted 5/17/2021

Updated 5/18/21 (includes Classes 2A and 1A Public)

Lawson Gailey and Franklin County will meet North Hall for the Class 3A state championship.


State championship previews

(Classes 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A Public, 1A Private)

Editor's Note: Other state championship preview stories will be posted later this week.


Class 4A

Benedictine (33-4) vs. Marist (31-8)

At Coolray Field, Lawrenceville

Best-of-three series begins Thursday, May 20 (DH) at 5 p.m.; Game 3 if needed Friday, May 21 at 12 p.m.


Benedictine baseball coach Kevin Farmer didn’t want to sound like the typical coach spewing clichés when he talked about his team making the Class 4A state baseball championship series.

“We’ve emphasized to our guys that everybody has a specific role,” Farmer said. “Whether you are playing defense, pitching, hitting or keeping stats in the dugout, to get to where we’re going, you have to fill that role.”

The Cadets (33-4) have filled their roles to perfection. Benedictine is in the state championship series for the second time in three years but first as a member of Class 4A. They won the Class 2A title in 2018. They will meet Marist (31-8) in the best-of-three championship series that begins Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. A third and deciding game is scheduled for Friday at noon at Coolray Field.

Benedictine has swept past Shaw, Thomas County Central, Heritage-Catoosa and North Oconee in the playoffs. While star Carter Holton, a Vanderbilt signee, has garnered most of the attention on the mound and with his bat, Farmer talked about a strong junior class taking the pressure off the seniors.

He praised the bottom three hitters in the lineup – George Mullen, Charles Pulaski and Ben Hollerbach – for getting on base and putting the top of the order in position to get runners home.

Trent Markiton and Holton have seen most of the work on the mound in the postseason. That trend should continue against Marist.

“We’re thankful to be where we’re at,” Farmer said. “We’ve got a good mixture of young talent that have filled their roles.”

Marist has been peaking at the right time. They swept Central-Carrollton and Jefferson in the first two rounds before needing three games to defeat West Laurens in the quarterfinals. They swept Bainbridge on Saturday, returning to the championship series for the first time since winning their last title in 2017.

‘It’s been the kind of season where our guys have kind of grown into each other,” Marist coach Mike Strickland said. “We feel like we’ve been prepared. But one thing I want our guys to understand is that no matter how prepared we are, we’ve still got to go out and play the game.”

The War Eagles have used a handful of pitchers, most notably junior right-handers Ryan McTighe, Preston Larmore and Isaac Coronado. Senior lefty Andrew Williams and sophomore left-hander Ty Siksta have also been solid. Shortstop Champ Davis, infielder Thomas Rollauer and senior outfielder Thomas Hare have been a few of the offensive leaders.

Strickland, however, knows what Benedictine will bring into the series.

“You don’t win as many games as they’ve won with the team being built around and relying on one guy (Holton),” he said. “Baseball is not just built that way.”

Marist is seeking its GHSA-leading 14th state baseball title.


Class 3A

North Hall (31-5) vs. Franklin County (35-3)

At Coolray Field, Lawrenceville

Best-of-three series begins Saturday, May 22 (DH) at 5 p.m.; Game 3 if needed Monday, May 24 at 12 p.m.


Franklin County baseball coach David Skelley said he had a special team during his time at Pendleton (S.C.) in 1994. However, he said he hasn’t experienced anything like what his Franklin County team has done in 2021.

“That team (in Pendleton) was 30-4, but this team has been something else,” he said. “You aren’t supposed to win 35 games in a season. Our motto has been, ‘Go to work.’ We need to do what we do and don’t try to do too much. The kids have really responded.”

The Lions (35-3) will make their first trip to the state championship series when they meet North Hall (31-5), a postseason veteran, for the Class 3A championship. The best-of-three championship series begins Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. A third and deciding game is scheduled for Monday at noon at Coolray Field.

Franklin has won 17 straight and been somewhat of a surprise this season. The Lions outdueled preseason No. 1 Hart County and Oconee County to win the Region 8 title and they’ve swept Westminster, Sonoraville, Long County and Appling County in the playoffs to reach the championship series. Franklin’s deepest playoff run came in 1977 when the Lions made it to the state semifinals.

Perhaps their biggest strength has been their two-headed pitching monster of Lawson Gailey and Kayne Jinks. Skelley added that the team’s Game 3 starter, Miles Dodd, hasn’t been able to see much postseason action because of the Lions’ success.

On offense, sophomore shortstop Dee Oliver, batting better than .475, has been the spark plug as the team’s leadoff hitter. But Franklin has primarily played small ball on offense, manufacturing runs by stealing bases and sacrificing bunts. They have stolen more than 100 bases and produced more than 60 sacrifice bunts. Franklin has hit nine homers this season by eight different players. Gailey leads the team with two.

“Our No. 9 hitter Evan Herring is batting over .400,” Skelley said. “But 1-9 has helped us win games this year.”

North Hall, after winning the state baseball title in 2017, is back in the state championship series. The Trojans are similar to Franklin County on offense.

“We don’t have a lot of kids that are going to scare you (on offense),” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said. “But what they do is that they’ve bought in and embraced an assortment of things to get runs across the plate.”

It starts at the top of the order with Tate Brooks, Jace Bowen and Jay Johnson.

The Trojans have a strong pitching rotation of their own. Jaret Bales has been the Game 1 starter, while Eli Reece has taken the mound in Game 2. Junior Hunter Brooks hasn’t seen much action in the postseason because the Trojans have swept three of their four postseason series. However, Flow said Hunter Brooks “has been very good for us this year.”

Since 2014, this is North Hall’s third appearance in a state championship series.

“We’ve played some really good teams in the playoffs and we feel like our guys know what to expect,” Flow said. “But we’re playing in a new environment, a new stadium where we’re not playing on a field where it’s 360, 370 feet to center field. No more of that. There’s no more short backstops behind the plate. There are so many more variables in this game. But we’re excited about the challenge.”


Class 2A

Jeff Davis (26-14) vs. Lovett (22-12)

At Grayson Stadium, Savannah

Best-of-three series begins Saturday, May 22 (DH) at 5 p.m.; Game 3 if needed Monday, May 24, TBA


Two of the state’s more recent successful baseball programs will collide in the Class 2A state championship series.

In Lovett coach Lance Oubs’ tenure, he has guided the Lions to state titles in 2006, ’09, ’13, ’16 and ’18. His team finished as the state runner-up in 2008.

Since 2017, there are few programs that can match Jeff Davis’ run that includes state titles in 2017 and 2019, a semifinal finish in 2018 and this year’s run to the championship series.

But tradition won’t matter on Saturday when the two schools collide at Grayson Stadium in Savannah for the Class 2A best-of-three championship series. The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. If a Game 3 is needed, it would be played on Monday.

Jeff Davis (26-14) needed three games to eliminate Jasper County and Fitzgerald in the first two rounds before sweeping Haralson County in the quarterfinals. Then it was back to needing three games in the semifinals to eliminate Callaway. Head coach Paul Glass said his team has steadily improved and done the little things right to get to where they are.

“There was at one point where we lost two of three in our region to Toombs County, then we lost the first game of our region series with Bacon County,” Glass said. “We were 1-3 in region and wondering if we were even going to make the playoffs. We were like a guy in a dark room trying to find the lights.”

The Jackets kept working and ended up as the second seed from Region 2.

The team strength has been pitching and defense. Matthew White and Cole Baucom have earned most of the innings, but Duke Stone has been a big help in the postseason. Stone tossed a three-hit shutout in Game 3 on Tuesday to beat Callaway.

On offense, Glass said leadoff hitter Trenton Clance has been good at setting the stage, while Hamp Hayes and Cade Walters have been catalysts.

“This team just keeps finding ways to win,” Glass said. “One of the biggest things is that they’ve had to persevere. Nothing has been easy, which I think when you get down to the nitty gritty of the playoffs, it’s helped us.”

Lovett (22-12) stumbled down the stretch of the regular season, losing three games to Pace Academy and finished as the No. 2 seed from Region 6. But the Lions, like Jeff Davis, have also found ways to win. They needed three games to eliminate Coosa, Elbert County and Vidalia in the first three rounds before sweeping Bremen in the semifinal round.

Oubs expects a stern challenge from Jeff Davis.

“Coach Glass is going to have his team prepared,” Oubs said. “And I expect our team to be fully prepared. It’s going to be a great series. It should be fun.”

The Lions deep pitching rotation has been a strength with Michael Hollingsworth, Will Prigge, Hayden Bernard, Owen McMurtrie and Conner Partin getting most of the innings. Offensively, Northwestern signee Drewbie Pinkston and Christopher Kollme, at the top of the lineup, have provided a spark to getting things started.

“But we’ve had several other guys up and down the lineup that have stepped up,” Oubs said. “That has been good to see.”


Class 1A Public

Gordon Lee (35-3) vs. Metter (27-8)

At Grayson Stadium, Savannah

Best-of-three series begins Friday, May 21 (DH) at 5 p.m.; Game 3 if needed Saturday, May 22 at 12 p.m.


Gordon Lee coach Mike Dunfee is never short on mottos. When his ‘Dream Crushers” theme came up during a game in 2020, it carried over into the 2021 campaign after last season got shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.

The two-time defending state champion Trojans are in their fourth straight state championship series. They crushed their opponents’ dreams on many occasions, but so has their opponent – the Metter Tigers.

The two teams will meet for the Class 1A public school state championship with a best-of-three series that begins Friday at 5 p.m. at Grayson Stadium in Savannah. If a third game is needed, it would be played Saturday at noon.

Dunfee said his theme started during a game last year.

“We were losing but came back, went into extra innings and won,” he said. “I told one of our players, ‘They thought they had us, but we came back and crushed their dreams.’ We just carried it over after Covid shut down our season last year.”

The Trojans (35-3) are making their sixth trip to the championship round in eight seasons. The biggest strength again has been a shutdown pitching rotation. Jake Poindexter, Bo Rhudy, Blake Rodgers and Riley King have pitched most of the innings.

“We’re fortunate to be here,” Dunfee said. “You have to have some breaks and some great players. Chaney Rogers, Tucker Bradley, Conard Broom, those guys laid the groundwork. Now it’s an expectation for our program. That’s a big thing.”

Metter (27-8) is making its first trip to the state championship series and have ridden the arms of pitchers John Luke Glanton and Brian Crooms in sweeps of Lanier County, Montgomery County, Schley County and Charlton County. Rustan and Randan Rigdon have also seen innings on the mound in the postseason.

Coach Zach Rackett attributes a brutal nonregion schedule for helping prepare his team.

“We played a lot of guys and they had to battle adversity against some very successful programs,” Rackett said. “We’re in the middle of region play but during the middle of the week, we’re seeing Savannah Christian’s No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher. Whether our kids handled it or didn’t handle it, I believe it has definitely paid off for us.”

Offensively, Glanton and Rustan Rigdon have been catalysts at the top of the order with Reco Coney, Kaliq Jordan and Kyzer Anthony providing power in the middle of the lineup. But Zackett said No. 9 hitter Antoine Deloach has been a major spark for the team in the playoffs with his ability to get on base, which has put the top of the order in position to drive runs home.

“The key for us is to have multiple at bats and be productive,” Rackett said. “Being productive may be different to others but for us, that means to make the other team work. When we’ve had long innings, that has been the case.”


Class 1A Private

Mount Paran Christian (27-4) vs. Wesleyan (32-4)

At Coolray Field, Lawrenceville

Best-of-three series begins Friday, May 21 (DH) at 5 p.m.; Game 3 if needed Saturday, May 22 at 12 p.m.


Mount Paran Christian baseball coach Kyle Reese had one word to describe Wesleyan.

“Loaded,” he said. “All of our kids know they’re kids, and their kids know our kids. So, we’re excited to be playing them.”

The Eagles (27-4) will be making their first appearance in the state championship series since 2014 when they finished as the Class 1A state runner-up. Wesleyan (32-4) is in the state championship series for the first time since 2016 when they finished as the Class 2A runner-up. None of that will matter when the two private school powers meet Friday at 5 p.m. for the best-of-three championship series at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. If a third game is needed, it would be played on Saturday at noon.

Mount Paran starts six sophomores, a freshman and two juniors in its starting lineup. While Wesleyan has the more-experienced team, Wolves coach Brian Krehmeyer isn’t sure anyone has an advantage in the experience category.

“I’d like to say my group is heavily slanted in the more-experienced category, but nobody has any experience because we all missed the playoffs in 2020 (because of the coronavirus pandemic),” Krehmeyer said. “We had some sophomores that played down at Savannah Christian in the semifinals in 2019, but that was the last taste of playoff baseball they had until this season.”

The Wolves haven’t lost since a three-game losing streak in early March when they lost to larger schools Grayson, Carrollton and Brookwood. The Wolves have won 25 straight, including sweeps of Tallulah Falls, Walker, Savannah Christian and Athens Christian by a combined 70-27.

Krehmeyer has emphasized building depth in the pitching rotation and on offense. He has given all of his pitchers innings so they get can get acclimated to playoff baseball, while he’s also tried giving hitters as many postseason at bats as possible.

“That’s been part of the pleasure of coaching this group,” he said. “On any given day, it could be somebody different who steps up.”

While the Wolves have been dominant on the mound, it’s the offense that has received most of the attention. But Krehmeyer pointed out that while Druw Jones and James McCoy have been two of the playmakers on offense, No. 6 hitter Luke Carroll leads the team in RBIs at 43.

Mount Paran’s pitching staff has been strong this season, especially in the playoffs. Sophomore Luke Dotson has primarily been the Game 1 starter, followed by sophomore Cam Collier in Game 2. Then sophomore Tate McKee has been the Game 3 starter, but Reese emphasized the strong relief pitching from Paul Farley and Jake Tucker as well as senior Reid Jones.

The Eagles first three playoff games over Saint Francis and the first game against Hebron Christian were shutouts. The rotation has allowed a combined 17 runs in the postseason with 10 of them allowed in the quarterfinals against Tattnall Square when Mount Paran needed three games to oust the two-time defending state champions.

They’ve also put up plenty of offense this season too, combining to score 70 runs in nine postseason games.

“They just love playing together,” Reese said. “I’m not just saying that. On and off the field, this is a pretty unique group.”