Class A baseball semifinals preview

Photo by Charlton County HS

The King’s Ridge Christian baseball team has been playing like kings of late, no matter the competition. On Monday the team ousted Class A-Private No. 1 Eagles Landing Christian Academy by surprisingly routine scores of 11-3, 7-2. The Chargers went into their semifinal doubleheader on a 28-game winning streak, their longest such run in school history. They were, however, no match for fifth-seeded King’s Ridge. Brandt Stallings of the visiting Tigers set the tone for the series with a two-run homer to pace his team to a quick 2-0 lead in the opener. Stallings also homered in the sixth inning for a comfortable 10-3 margin. Lawson Hill delivered a two-run blast in the second game to maintain the momentum for King’s Ridge.

Up next for the Tigers starting on Saturday is the championship series against Mt. Paran Christian (29-3), which got past Hebron Christian by scores of 8-6 and 11-0. The Eagles’ trademarked power hitting is exacerbated by an extremely small field that measures 310 feet down each line, 335 feet to each power alley and 350 feet to straightaway center. As the No. 2 seed, they will enjoy home-field advantage once again on Saturday and for a Game 3 if necessary on Monday. The Eagles went deep six times and mustered 10 extra-base knocks during the two-game sweep of Hebron Christian. Mt. Paran Christian is led by Boston College signee Jake Palomaki. The senior second baseman and pitcher tossed a complete game in the semifinal opener before belting two dingers and tallying four RBIs in the clincher. Junior first baseman Jack Rowan homered in each of the two contests for the Eagles, who are 2-0 this season against King’s Ridge Christian. They rolled to wins of 7-0 and 9-1 on March 25 and April 10, respectively.

In Class A-Public, Gordon Lee is the only team through to this weekend’s title series after Monday’s proceedings. The fifth-seeded Trojans picked up 10-2 and 4-2 victories over No. 9 seed Treutlen. As usual, they showcased a style of play that has now taken them to the championship round on two consecutive occasions (they finished runner-up to Charlton County last year). Gordon Lee likes to play small ball, manufacture runs on offense and back up a stellar pitching staff with rock-solid defense.

“To me, from the beginning of the year to now, the guys are buying in,” head coach Mike Dunfee told the Chattanooga Times Free Press following the semifinals. “We’re getting better at-bats throughout the lineup and we’re being what I call patiently aggressive. In the second game, what won it were the bunts. We work on bunting a lot and in that game we laid down some pretty ones. Earlier in the year I felt we had to do it, and though we’ve swung the bats better late in the year, we never stop practicing it.”

The Trojans’ pitching staff includes Chaney Rogers, Jake Rogers and Conrad Broom. Through six games of their postseason run (all three series have been 2-0 sweeps), the team has not allowed more than two runs in any contest. Gordon Lee features only one senior, shortstop Zack Cobb. Dunfee saw 10 seniors graduate from the 2013 squad, but his team clearly put to rest any ideas that this might have to be a rebuilding year.

The Trojans await either Emanuel County Institute or a rematch with Charlton County. Game 1 of that semifinal series went the way of No. 3 seed Charlton County 5-2 before host ECI forced a decisive showdown with a 9-1 victory. Gordon Lee will be the visitor on Saturday regardless of Tuesday’s outcome.

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