Championship previews (Classes 7A, 6A, 5A)

Posted 5/19/2021

Parkview will meet North Paulding for the Class 7A state title. (Special Photo: Gwinnett Daily Post)


State championship previews

(Classes 7A, 6A, 5A)


Class 7A

Parkview (28-10) vs. North Paulding (30-8)

At Truist Park, Atlanta

Best-of-three series begins Monday, May 24 (DH) at 5 p.m.; Game 3 if needed Tuesday, May 25 at 12 p.m.


Mike Day knew his group of youngsters at North Paulding High School had a chance to be special. The junior varsity coach made a point to tell North Paulding varsity coach Dennis Jordan.

“He was right,” said Jordan, who has continued to develop what Day started some four years ago and has the Wolfpack in the Class 7A state championship series for the first time in school history.

“We’ve got a bunch of kids who don’t ever quit. They just keep going.”

The Wolfpack (30-8) will play perennial state power Parkview (28-10) in the best-of-three Class 7A championship series that begins on Monday at Truist Park at 5 p.m. If a third game is needed, it would be played Tuesday at noon.

North Paulding has slayed its proverbial baseball demons this season, making it past the quarterfinals after watching promising seasons end there three times. The Wolfpack has a deep pitching rotation that is led by Dylan Rhadans, Jake Hembree and Mitchell Heer.

And the offense has been able to deliver in clutch situations as well.

The Wolfpack swept McEachern and Brookwood before needing three games to top Woodstock in the quarterfinals. In a sweep of Forsyth Central, the Wolfpack trailed 3-0 in Game 2 before rallying to win the game.

“Our guys feel like the offense can erupt at any time,” Jordan said. “But it’s been fun. This is a very unique group.”

Parkview has won 16 in a row and swept Colquitt County, East Coweta, Denmark and Lowndes after having a heart-to-heart meeting when the team had an 11-10 record in early April.

“We told them a 30-win season was still possible, and winning a state championship was still possible at that point,” Parkview coach Chan Brown said. “They haven’t looked back since.”

The two-time defending champion Panthers have mainly used pitchers Mason Brown and Landon Stripling in the playoffs. Both have performed admirably, but the offense has exploded and Parkview used the long ball in its series with Lowndes, combining to belt eight homers. Ryan Spikes and Cade Brown had grand slams in Parkview’s 16-2 victory over Lowndes in Game 2 of the quarterfinals.

“Cade Sadler has been our catalyst on offense all year,” Brown said. “But our team, we grew as hitters. Early in the season, we didn’t have the best approach on offense. But our kids bought in and really grew up. They started really believing in each other.”


Class 6A

Houston County (31-8) vs. Lassiter (32-6)

At Truist Park, Atlanta

Best-of-three series begins Wednesday, May 26 (DH) at 5 p.m.; Game 3 if needed Thursday, May 27, 12 p.m.


The last time Lassiter won a state baseball championship, most of its current players were toddlers. Most wouldn’t remember the Trojans’ state runner-up finish in 2010.

But for a school that boasts a proud baseball tradition, getting back to the state championship series has been a long time coming. Since 1995, the school won state and national titles in 1999, then won a state crown in 2006. In the middle, they finished as state runner-up six times (1995, ‘97, 2000, ‘02, ’05).

Lassiter will meet Houston County, who has a started a tradition of its own, for the Class 6A state title with a best-of-three series that starts on Wednesday, May 26 at 5 p.m. at Truist Park. A third game, if needed, is scheduled for Thursday, May 27 at noon.

The Trojans’ scoreboard on its baseball field is filled with the years of its championships and state runner-up finishes.

“We told our guys that the good news is that we get a chance to put another number on the scoreboard,” Lassiter coach Kyle Rustay said. “But we want to make sure it’s the right number.”

The Trojans (32-6), who finished as the No. 3 seed from Region 6, has played every postseason series on the road. With the exception of the second round when they topped nationally-ranked Carrollton in three games, they’ve swept Cambridge, Valdosta and Pope to get to the championship series. And they’ve done it with a blue-collar approach – good pitching, excellent defense and timely hitting.

Senior right-handers Ben Norton and Walker Noland have gotten most of the innings in the postseason, while junior right-hander Trey Griffin has been the team’s Game 3 starter. On offense, Rustay said a number of players have provided a spark, from shortstop Bradley Frye, third baseman Kyle Carlson, outfielders Cam Campbell and Parker Hughes and catcher Ryan Stephens.

“That speaks volumes about our guys, each game it could be somebody different,” Rustay said. “That’s been one of the biggest things about this team.”

Houston County broke through and won its first state title in 2014, then claimed another in 2016. They made deep postseason runs the next three seasons before making another trip to the state championship series this year.

“That was one of the things when (former coach Jason) Brett took over the program over a decade ago, he wanted Houston County to be mentioned among the state’s top baseball programs,” Houston coach Matt Hopkins said. “He wanted people to know who we are.”

The Bears (31-8) have relied on the pitching of Florida State signee Brodie Chestnutt and Georgia signee Coleman Willis, both right-handers, for most of the season. However, sophomore right-hander Andrew Dunford has shown in the playoffs that he can be just as lethal, tossing a one-hitter in a Game 3 victory against Allatoona in the semifinals. Houston has also used Gage Harrelson, Treyson Hughes, Eli Sikes and Carson McFadden on the mound.

But the offense has also proven to be lights out. The team is currently batting .375 as a team with Harrelson leading the way at .525. Willis, Hughes and sophomore Drew Burress have been leaders at the plate during the postseason.

“Our hitting has been very good in the playoffs,” Hopkins said. “I can’t say enough good things about the way we’ve been hitting the ball lately.”


Class 5A

Starr’s Mill (29-11) vs. Loganville (30-9)

At Truist Park, Atlanta

Best-of-three series begins Tuesday, May 25 (DH) at 5 p.m.; Game 3 if needed Wednesday, May 26, 12 p.m.


Starr’s Mill High School’s baseball program cleared one hurdle in the baseball postseason. They’d like to clear one more.

The Panthers watched their seasons end in the state semifinals three of the past four seasons. Monday’s semifinal round victory over Ware County helped Starr’s Mill clear that hurdle.

When the Panthers (29-11) meet Loganville (30-9) in the Class 5A state playoff series, they will look to clear another hurdle of getting past the Red Devils. Loganville has been the team to end the Panthers’ season the past two seasons.

The two meet in the best-of-three Class 5A state championship series that begins Tuesday, May 25 with a doubleheader at Truist Park starting at 5 p.m. If a third game is needed, it would be played Wednesday, May 26 at noon.

Loganville is in the state championship series for the fifth straight season. The three-time defending champions are chasing history as well, looking to join Richmond Academy as the only program in the state to win four or more consecutive state titles. Richmond won state championships from 1951-57 which still stands as a state record.

Starr’s Mill is in the championship round for just the second time in school history. Their first trip came in 2009 when they finished as the state runner-up. Coach Brent Moseley is glad this group broke through to the title series.

“After all the injuries these guys had to overcome during their four years, to get to this point is a feather in their caps so to speak,” Moseley said. “This is a good group of seniors that have played well. I’m happy they got us back to the finals.”

The Panthers have gotten quality starts on the mound from Chay Yeager, Daniel Courtney and Declan Dun in the playoffs. Left-handers Bryson Daniel and junior Josh Tate have also been solid in relief. On offense, catcher Sean White has provided a major spark in the No. 3 spot.

Moseley said his team has struggled with inconsistency. He said in losses to Greenbrier in the quarterfinals and a loss to Ware County in the semifinals, he said his team didn’t play well and made too many mistakes. But even in victories, he believes his team can play better.

After watching Loganville end his team’s hopes in the semifinals the past two seasons, he knows exactly what his players will be going up against.

“It’s the same thing every year,” he said. “Really good pitching and playing defense, then they just find a way to score runs.”

Loganville coach Jeff Segars said his offense has been balanced, but his starting pitching rotation of Tyler Cruce, Dawson Coe and Trenton Burnette have been lethal in the postseason.

“We felt like we had a good group coming back this season, but there were so many unknowns,” he said. “As the season went along, we began to play well at the right time and here we are.”

The Red Devils defeated Chamblee, North Springs, Harris County and Saint Pius X to get to the title series.

No team in the state can match Loganville’s success since 2016 which includes a state runner-up finish in 2016 followed by three straight state titles. The Red Devils would like nothing more than to continue their dominance.

“It’s a testament to a great staff who some have been with me for 15-20 years,” Segars said. “It hasn’t been just the varsity, but the JV and ninth-grade programs. And obviously, we’ve had some great players.”