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Wesleyan faces long trip, amped opponent in quarterfinals

NORCROSS - Wesleyan will face a familiar opponent in the Class AA state baseball quarterfinals, but this time it will be the Wolves making the long, long trip.

No. 1-ranked Wesleyan (24-3-1) will travel to southeast Georgia to face No. 6 Pierce County (25-3) next week. The teams will play a doubleheader Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Blackshear, with a third game on Wednesday if needed.

Wesleyan had no trouble with the Bears in the quarterfinals last year, winning 10-2 and 10-1 at home.

The Wolves took a 19-game winning streak into the series last season and this year they are unbeaten in their past 20 games, although they have one tie.

"We've been thinking about Wesleyan for 365 days and we are highly motivated," Pierce County coach Greg Gay told the Waycross Journal-Herald. "We played poorly in Norcross last year, but we got our wish to play them again at our place.

"Wesleyan is one of the best, or the best, in the state and it is great to have the opportunity to play them again."

Wesleyan swept Callaway 10-0 and 3-1 in the second round Wednesday, while Pierce County beat visiting Fitzgerald 6-5 and 10-0.

The Wolves, Region 6-AA champs, have outscored Callaway and Washington-Wilkes 38-4 in the postseason. Region 2-AA winner Pierce County has beaten Fitzgerald and Dodge County 39-8.

"We're two steps closer to our goal, but we have three more steps to go," Wesleyan coach Mike Shaheen said. "We're definitely not taking anything for granted."

The Wesleyan-Pierce County winner will play the survivor between No. 9 North Oconee and Screven County in the semifinals.

Wesleyan has never won a state baseball title, but reached the championship series in 2006 and the semifinals last year.

Region 6-AA rivals Holy Innocents' and Lovett - state champs in 2007 and 2006, respectively - are also in the quarterfinals this year. No. 3-ranked Holy Innocents' will play at No. 2 Cook and No. 8 Lovett is at No. 7 Westside-Augusta.

Wesleyan allowed just four hits in sweeping Callaway, which had made the semifinals last year. Grayson Garvin (7-0) struck out 15 in the first game and Devin Stanton (6-0) fanned 12 in the doubleheader nightcap.

Kevin Ruiz provided the winning margin in the second game with a two-run homer in the sixth inning. Connor Winn and Ben Tucker also homered in the doubleheader. Winn has 12 homers and Ruiz has 10.

"We're not looking ahead," Garvin said. "We know any team we play from now on will be a very good team."