Baseball set to crown final five state champs

Georgia Bennett Photography

There have been 418 postseason baseball games played across the state this month. One hundred sixty teams in Class AA-AAAAAA earned trips to the playoffs and just 10 are left standing. We have witnessed another competitive school year within Georgia’s high school athletics and it is time to crown the final five GHSA state champions of the 2013-2014 year.

NO. 1 VS. NO. 2 …

In Class AAAAAA, top-ranked Lambert has made it to the state championship with an astonishing 34-1 record. The Longhorns only loss of the season came on May 6 in a 6-5 defeat to Mill Creek in the quarterfinals. The explosive bats and deep pitching handled business in Game 3 and Lambert bounced back with a 7-3 victory. Lambert opened its doors as a school in 2009 and the young Forsyth program is searching for its first baseball state championship.

Jake Chickowski, Tucker Maxwell and Eric Furphy lead the Longhorns at the plate and starting pitcher Dylan Biumi and closer Turner Scruggs are automatic on the mound. Defending Class AAAAAA state champion Milton added a third title to its shelf last sea- son (1955, 2004) and like its championship team from a year ago, has caught fire in the playoffs. The No. 2 Eagles swept their way past North Gwinnett, Grayson, Kennesaw Mountain and Johns Creek while averaging 6.4 runs offensively and surrendering just 2.3 runs per game.

Senior Ryan Gridley sparks the Milton offense and is batting .462 this postseason with 11 scored runs. Milton’s Matt Geiger is 4-0 in his four postseason starts and has allowed just four earned runs in 22.1 innings pitched. Ace Alex Schnell has been red hot as well, allowing just one earned run in 25 innings pitched this postseason.


In Class AAAAA, finalist Whitewater survived two Game 3s this postseason while Houston County punched its ticket in the championship with a 7-4 Game 3 win at Gainesville. This is the only state championship matchup this year that has two opponents both searching for their first-ever state titles.

Houston County is led by Georgia Tech signee Blake Jackson, who came up to bat with his team trailing by one run in the sixth inning of their semifinals Game 3 with Gainesville. Jackson patiently worked the count to 3-2 and then roped a double off the left-field fence to drive home Nolan Wallace and Justin Jones. Jackson’s heroics earned the Bears their first-ever trip to the state title. Jackson went 6-for-9 in the semifinals series and reached base 12 of 15 appearances.

Whitewater took an early 5-0 lead over Greenbrier in its semifinals Game 3 and held on as the Wolfpack cut the lead to 5-4.


In Class AAAA, Carrollton looks for its first state title in 52 years (1962) while finalist Crisp County aims to return to the po- dium for the first time in 53 seasons (1961). Crisp County survived three rubber games to get to the semifinals before sweeping Alexander 7-2 and 3-0 in the final four. Carroll- ton was forced to a third game by defending Class AAAA state champion Redan in the second round, but dominated the rubber match 12-0.

Two-year Carrollton head coach Ryan Zaideman served as an assistant at Bowdon before starting his coaching journey. Bowdon made two State Championships while Zaideman was at the school, but fell short in both appearances.

Carrollton houses a lot of athleticism in its lineup and senior Andrew Turner robbed a home run in the region championship game against LaGrange that made national headlines. Turner, who made 24 catches for 415 yards and five touchdowns this past football season as a wide receiver for Class AAAA state runner-up Carrollton, sprinted to the fence before leaping and tumbling over the padding for the game-saving catch that would give the Trojans the Region title and No. 1 seed out of Region 5.

Crisp County has only lost one road game all season and after battling three straight Game 3s hit its stride in the semifinals. Senior Taylor Walls pitched a complete game in the Cougars’ 7-2 Game 1 victory and junior lefties Tyler Stewart and Logan Carter combined for a three-hit shutout in Crisp County’s 3-0 clinching win in Game 2.


In Class AAA, defending state champion Cartersville needed to rally from a three-run deficit to beat Buford 7-5 in the decisive Game 3 of the semifinals on Tuesday. Cartersville was without head coach Stuart Chester, who was serving a two-game suspension for hav- ing video cameras in the dugout. The Hurricanes dropped Game 1 to the Wolves 4-0 and battled past elimination in back-to-back games at Buford. Cartersville is 2-2 in Game 1s this postseason and has scored just two runs per game in its series openers. Game 2 has a different story as the Hurricanes have scored nine runs per game in the backend of their double-headers.

Blessed Trinity dominated Hart County 13-5 and 10-2 in the semifinals and is searching for its second state title in program his- tory after winning the Class AAA title forthe first time in 2006. Junior Cody Roberts batted 4-for-6 in the semis and drove in four RBIs. Sophomore Conor Davis and junior John Castro homered in both games in the semifinals and batted in a combined 10 runs in the two-game series.


In Class AA, the two semifinal rubber matches could not have been any more dif- ferent. Benedictine scored a 19-16 victory over Wesleyan in an offensive explosion to advance to the state championship, while Greater Atlanta Christian edged Westminster in a 1-0 pitching dual to reach the finals.

Benedictine last won the state title in 1961 and will host the Spartans, which claimed state gold in 1975 and 1982. Benedictine has power and consistent hitting throughout its lineup, but depth on the mound is a concern. The Cadets’ semifinals Game 3 victory over Wesleyan was their only deciding game played this postseason and they needed 19 runs to secure the win. GACS has held opponents to four runs or fewer in 8-of-10 games this postseason and a total of one run in its two Game 3s this postseason.

Benedictine head coach Kevin Farmer hit a milestone with his 300th career win in the finals-clinching victory on Tuesday. The Cadets gave up six homers, including four from Wesleyan catcher Grant Colton. Wesleyan cut the lead to 13-9 and Benedictine scored another six runs off a Patrick Maguire base hit and a Stevie Powers two-run single before a Mike Huggins two-run blast.

GACS is the four seed out of Region 6 and has had battled through 10 straight road games to reach the finals. The Spartans have won with their defense and se- nior southpaw Ben Childers, who pitched a complete game shutout in their 1-0 Game 3 win over Westminster.

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