Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Peachtree Ridge's Billy Best (1) and Preston Johnson (7) jump into each others arms after defeating Norcross 6-4 on Friday. The win over the Blue Devils marks the Lions' first ever trip to the playoffs.
Gwinnett County’s contingent in the upcoming state baseball playoffs will include many of the usual suspects, with longtime guests like Brookwood, Mill Creek, North Gwinnett, Parkview, Providence Christian and Wesleyan — and more recently, Buford and Hebron Christian — all making their reservations once again.
However, when the playoffs get under way with the first round of best-of-three series at campus sites Friday, there will also be some new faces from Gwinnett at the table.
Pretty much all of those new faces will be in Class AAAAA, including one receiving its first-ever invitation (Peachtree Ridge) to the postseason party and two others (Dacula and Duluth) that have gone quite a few years since being invited.
“It doesn’t shock me,” said Dacula coach John Poitivent, whose Falcons (16-10, No. 3 seed in Region 8-AAAAA) travels to Milton for a first-round series. “There’s a lot of parity (in Gwinnett’s two Class AAAAA regions). It’s a pretty good standard because it’s tough to get in (to the playoffs) every year.”
Peachtree Ridge punched its ticket in dramatic fashion with a 6-4 victory over Norcross at home Friday to force a three-way tie with the Blue Devils and North Gwinnett for third place in Region 7-AAAAA.
The ensuing tie-breakers made the Lions (13-13) wind up with the fourth seed behind No. 3 North.
“Everything just fell into place,” said Peachtree Ridge coach Ryan Hanik after his Lions earned the first postseason berth in their program’s history and a date with Region 5-AAAAA champion Lassiter in the first round. “I’ll tell you, this is a hard-working group of young men and a great coaching staff. It’s just a relief to get in.”
While Peachtree Ridge is headed to the playoffs for the first time, Dacula and Duluth (17-9, No. 2 in Region 7-AAAAA) both return to the postseason for the first time in a while.
For the Falcons, it is the first time since 2007, when they made it as a Class AAAA team, and their first in the state’s highest classification since 2004.
“It really is big,” said Dacula coach John Poitevint, whose Falcons will meet Milton in the first round. “Our players and fans are really excited.”
There’s just as much excitement at Duluth, where the Wildcats will not only make their first postseason appearance since major league infielder Nick Green was a senior in 1997, but will also host a first-round series against Wheeler.
In other first-round matchups in Class AAAAA:
• Region 7-AAAAA champion Mill Creek meets Walton, the No. 4 seed from Region 5-AAAAA after defeating Marietta in a mini-game Saturday
• North Gwinnett travels to Etowah
• Region 8-AAAAA champion Parkview welcomes Centennial to Hugh Buchanan Field on Friday
• Brookwood will play host to North Forsyth
• South Gwinnett travels to Region 6-AAAAA champion Alpharetta
In the smaller classifications, Wesleyan, a three-time defending state champion — the last two in Class A with another in Class AA — will be a No. 2 seed this season, though will open up at home at Donn Gaebelein Field against Lincoln County.
Meanwhile, the three other small schools to qualify go in as region champions, with Region 6-AA champion Buford playing host to Fannin County in Class AA, while Providence (5-A) hissing Glascock County and Hebron (8-A) taking on either North Cobb Christian or Bremen in Class A.