Day 1 baseball championship recaps: Loganville, Benedictine sweep for state titles

Loganville swept Buford to defend its Class 5A title. Credit: Melinda Pease

The GHSA baseball state championships got underway Monday night at four locations throughout the state, with Class AAAAA, AAAA, AAA and AA beginning their championship series. Two series ended in doubleheader sweeps, and two will go to decisive Game 3s on Wednesday.

Class AAAAA

By Alex Ewalt

Loganville 13, 3, Buford 3, 2

Loganville held on in Game 2 to win 3-2 and sweep Buford for the Class AAAAA championship, their fourth state title all-time, all since 2008. The win at the University of Georgia’s Foley Field also gives the Red Devils a repeat Class AAAAA title. Loganville won Game 1 in five innings 13-3 due to the run rule but had to hold on for five scoreless innings in the second game to claim the championship.

Loganville went up 2-0 in the top of the first inning of Game 2 on a two-run home run to center field by clean-up hitter Bryant Pietri. The Red Devils added to the lead in the top of the second when Ian King made it 3-0 with an RBI single, but Buford answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Garrison Price singled to drive Noah Ledford in to make it a 3-1 game, and a Loganville throwing error on a Patrick Walker ground ball allowed Reese McIntyre to score to make it 3-2. But there would be no runs from the second inning on as Loganville held on for the win. Seth Clark earned the Game 2 victory for Loganville.

Game 1 saw both teams score twice in the first inning. Buford went up 2-0 in the top of the first with RBI singles by McIntyre and Price, and Loganville came back in the bottom with two RBI singles of their own by Bay Witcher and Daniel Braswell. Dylan Strickland gave the Red Devils the lead with an RBI knock in the bottom of the second, and Loganville added two more runs in the inning to take a 5-2 lead it would not relinquish. The Red Devils added three more runs in the bottom of the third. Buford added a run in the fourth to make it an 8-3 game, but a five-run bottom of the fifth for Loganville brought the game to its final tally due to the run rule. Joseph Brandon got the win in Game 1.

Class AAAA

By Craig Sager

Jefferson 5, 3, Cartersville 4, 9

Jefferson and Cartersville split their doubleheader on Monday night and will play Game 3 on Wednesday at State Mutual Stadium in Rome. Jefferson, in search of its first-ever baseball state title against the six-time champion Cartersville, opened up a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 and never trailed in its 5-4 win. Jefferson shortstop Zac Corbin led off the first inning with a single into center field, and then Lane Walkins drove in Corbin with an RBI triple to right field to put the Dragons up 1-0. Before the inning was over, Jefferson batted around, but the lead remained 4-0 until Ryan Godfrey crossed the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning to make it 5-0. After a scoreless fifth, Cartersville’s Anthony Seigler tripled to ignite a three-run inning that cut the lead to 5-3 entering the final frame. Corbin, however, would snag and secure the final out in the top of the seventh.

Cartersville went ahead 1-0 in Game 2 with a Jake Gooch RBI double that drove in Seigler. Jefferson’s Sammy Elegreet drove home Billy Finch in the top of the second inning to tie it 1-1, but Cartersville drove in two more runs in the bottom of the inning; Ian Inaba and Preston Welchel each notched RBI singles. Jefferson walked two batters to open the bottom of the third, and a throwing error on Inaba’s grounder increased the Purple Hurricanes’ lead to 5-1 heading into the top of the fourth inning. Cartersville loaded the bases in the top of the fifth, and a Gooch sacrifice fly was accompanied by another throwing error to make it 7-1 Cartersville. Martin kept the inning alive with an infield single for an RBI, and Cartersville took its 8-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth, when Jefferson added a run but stranded two. The Purple Hurricanes went up 9-2 on a Brant Smith triple that ricocheted off the outfield wall, allowing plenty of time for Inaba to cross the plate in the top of the sixth inning and plenty of insurance for Cartersville to withstand a Godfrey single and Jefferson run in the top of the seventh.

Class AAA

By Seth Ellerbee

Westminster 6, 6, Lovett 2, 7

Lovett’s six-run top of the sixth in Game 2 was the difference that forced a decisive Game 3 in the Class AAA series at Mercer’s Claude Smith Field in Macon. Game 3 will be on Wednesday.

The second game was scoreless through two innings before Ward Croft’s single with runners on second and third with one out. The RBI put Westminster up 1-0, and for a majority of the game, it looked like it would stay that way.

The Wildcats pushed the lead to 3-0 on a Parks Harber double to the center field fence. The two-RBI hit left Harber at second and Ryan Miller at the plate. Barron hit a single to advance Harber to third, and in a heads-up play, Miller noticed that the Lovett infielders were out of place. He used their lapse in attention to advance to second base, but it was all for naught when Ben O’Meara retired the side.

Lovett struck in the top of the sixth inning. The Lions cut the lead to 3-1 following a deep double by Will Seilers to drive in a run. Following a wild pitch, Lovett took advantage and plated a runner from third to pull within one run at 3-2. Senior Peyton Ringer then drove in a run with an RBI single to tie the game at 3-3. Wyatt Nelson’s two RBIs gave Lovett the first lead of the evening, 5-3.

Westminster began to struggle with errors in the sixth, allowing Lovett to push the lead to 6-3 following Evan McKown’s hit between second and third. The throw to first was wild to allow the run.

Westminster charged back in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI double from Harber with Ryan Miller on deck, pulling the Wildcats to within two runs, 6-4. Jack Polhemus’s two-RBI single tied the game 6-6.

In the top of the seventh, Lovett’s Charles Gibson gave the Lions the lead on a one-hop liner to first base. The Westminster player fielded the ball on a bounce but slipped and fell, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Westminster could not find offense in the bottom of the seventh, giving Lovett the victory.

In Game 1, Westminster forced Lovett into the do-or-die Game 2 after taking a 6-2 victory. The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, as Peter York connected on an outside pitch and sent it high over the right field fence fading toward the foul pole. The two-RBI home run pushed the Wildcats lead to 4-0. In his next at-bat, York hit a nearly identical shot to the same spot, high and bending left to right as it cleared the fence with room to spare over the 320-foot sign.

Lovett clawed its way back, and following a Will Seiler deep ball in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Lions were within three runs, 5-2, before Westminster got another run in the top of the fifth.

In the bottom of the fifth, Westminster’s Luke Janetta, who pitched a complete game, got the Wildcats out of a jam, stranding Lovett runners on first and third with two outs to protect the lead.

Class AA

By Graham David

Benedictine 6, 3, Berrien 3, 0

Benedictine and Berrien went scoreless through the first two and a half innings of Game 1 at Grayson Stadium in Savannah. Senior first baseman/pitcher Justin Roberts hit a two-out single to score a runner and put Berrien on the board 1-0 in the bottom of the third. Darius Tisby continued the Rebels rally with what appeared to be a two-run double, but Benedictine appealed that the second runner didn’t make contact with home plate to keep it a 2-0 game. Berrien struck again when Tanner Adams hit an RBI double in the fourth to increase the lead to 3-0.

But the Cadets mounted a three-run comeback in the fifth inning thanks to a pair of singles by Johnny Richardson and Jacob Markiton, followed by a two-run triple by John Thorpe. They continued to pile on the runs in the sixth to extend their lead to 6-3, making way for freshman Carter Holton to get the save after striking out the last two Berrien batters on six pitches. Senior Garrison Gunby got the Game 1 win, pitching six and one-third innings and giving up seven hits and three runs.

Game 2 of the series was duel between the bullpens. Both teams went scoreless through the first four and a half innings, with starter Holton racking up eight strikeouts. The Cadets bats came to life in the bottom of the fifth as Holton and Gunby had a pair of RBI singles along with a sacrifice fly from Markiton to put Benedictine ahead 3-0. Holton continued to excel on the mound, throwing a complete-game shutout while striking out 10 batters to help seal Benedictine’s third baseball state title in school history.