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Esmonde leads Panthers to sweep

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

LILBURN — Parkview’s Jack Esmonde came up big in more ways than one.

Facing Centennial in the opening round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs Friday night, Esmonde went 4-for-6 with three RBIs in the doubleheader and recorded the save in Game 2 as the Panthers took the series with a sweep.

Esmonde’s 2-for-3 performance with two RBIs in Game 1 propelled the Panthers to a 5-1 win, while adding two more hits and an RBI in the 6-5 win in Game 2.

As much as his bat was needed in the nightcap, it was his performance on the mound that gave the Panthers (21-7) the boost they needed.

Parkview looked like it was going to run away with the second game, building a 5-0 lead by the fourth inning before Centennial’s bats came to life.

The Knights (16-12) scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth, including a two-run homer from Wright McCraney, but Esmonde’s RBI single in the top of the fifth put Parkview back up 6-3.

The lead was shaved to one run at 6-5 in the bottom of the fifth when Patrick Sammons, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in Game 2, drove in two runs with a double to right center.

Esmonde was called in to pitch in the bottom of the sixth with two runners on and two out, escaping that jam with fly out to right off the bat of Dustin Beggs.

In the seventh, Esmonde walked the first hitter, but coaxed Sammons into grounding into a 6-4-3 double play.

McCraney followed and put a scare into the Parkview crowd when he lofted a fly ball to deep left, only to have it hauled in at the fence.

“Jack is our guy,” Parkview head coach Chan Brown said. “He had six saves last year as a sophomore and has two or three more this year. He’s a cool character in those situations and knows how to handle the pressure.”

Esmonde’s save preserved the win for Jesse Foster, who went 42⁄3 innings with five runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts.

A.J. Davis and Rob Youngblood also helped by each going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run in the clinching game.

Matt Olson delivered a solid start in the opener, putting in 52⁄3 innings with one run allowed on six hits with nine strikeouts as the Panthers won 5-1.

Olson also helped at the plate, giving himself some breathing room with a two-run homer in the fifth inning to put the Panthers up 4-1.

Parkview took a 1-0 lead in the second when Esmonde singled in Zack Reinstein, but the lead was short lived as Stuart Mals tied it at 1-1 in the third with a solo homer to right.

Esmonde would strike again in the fourth, singling in Ryan Blanton. Blanton finished the opener 2-for-3 with two doubles and a run.

After Olson’s two-run shot in the fifth, Travis Naraine added some insurance with an RBI single in the sixth. Olson would give way to Phillip Taylor in the bottom of the fifth, and the left-hander closed out the game with 11⁄3 scoreless relief with one hit and two strikeouts.

“We showed some character and determination tonight,” Brown said, whose team will play the Etowah-North Gwinnett winner next week in the second round. “I didn’t think we played as well tonight as we have been playing. We’re glad to be moving on and we’ll work on some things Monday and Tuesday and hope be ready for the second round.”