MARIETTA — Friday’s Class AAAAA first-round doubleheader pitting Peachtree Ridge at fourth-ranked Lassiter is what state playoff baseball is all about.
The Region 5-AAAAA champion and No. 1 seeded Trojans dueled with the Region 7-AAAAA No. 4 seeded Lions to one-run games with Lassiter taking the first contest 1-0 before Peachtree Ridge tied the best 2-out-of-3 series with a 4-3 triumph in Game 2 at the Lassiter Baseball Complex.
Game 3 to decide the series will be held today at Lassiter at 2 p.m.
“We just have to pitch and hit,” said Lassiter coach Scott Kelly about today’s game. “They won Game 2. We won Game 1. We’ll see what happens. We won a game, and we lived to play another day. It’s win or go home now.”
The first contest proved to be a pitcher’s duel between the Lions’ Preston Johnson and the Trojans’ Parker Shank. Shank gave up three hits and struck out 12 to earn the complete-game victory, while Johnson allowed two hits, struck out five and gave up one unearned run in six innings of work.
Lassiter’s Keegan Corley scored the game’s only run in the second inning. He led off the frame with a single, moved to second on an error and reached third on Wes Burns’ ground out. Corley came around to score on a wild pitch, which was all Shank and the Trojans (20-8) needed to earn the win.
Cooper Burdick batted 2-for-3 for the Lions (14-14) in Game 1.
“(Parker’s) done that for us all year,” Kelly said. “That’s what we kind of expect out of him and that’s what he expects out of himself. He was in the strike zone, and he was unbelievable. The game was about him because we sure didn’t hit.”
Hitting was the name of the game in the nightcap with Peachtree Ridge unloading for 10 and Lassiter belting out seven. Jared Walsh, who was 2-for-3 with a RBI, provided the game-winning base hit for the Lions in the bottom of the fourth to cap a two-run inning.
Lassiter took a 3-2 lead in the fourth behind Audi Plemmons’ two-out home run. But the run wouldn’t hold up for the Trojans after Steven Bowman walked to begin the bottom half of the frame and reached third on Tyler Haswell’s single.
Tripp Miller provided a RBI single to plate Bowman to knot the game at 3-3. Johnson’s single put Miller in scoring position at second, and Walsh’s liner to right field scored Miller for what proved to be the game-winning run as Drew Coffey and Johnson combined to allow two Lassiter hits over the final three innings from the mound.
“I’m just real proud of the boys,” said Peachtree Ridge coach Ryan Hanik, who guided the Lions to their first state playoff win in school history after winning Game 2. “I can’t say enough about our effort. It was a tough way to lose the first ball game, but I’m so proud of the kids. They battled in the second game and came back to compete.”
Lassiter got on the board first in the nightcap when Matt McGuire singled, moved to second on a fielder’s choice, reached third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch.
The margin grew to 2-0 following Reed Anthes’ third-inning home run, but Peachtree Ridge quickly tied it in the bottom half of the inning.
Billy Best hit a lead-off homer to make it 2-1. Burdick belted a one-out single, moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on Brett Polachek’s single. Polachek was caught trying to steal second, while Burdick slid in safe at home for a 2-all tie.
Polachek finished the game batting 3-for-3, while Walsh was 2-for-3 with a RBI. Bowman walked twice for Peachtree Ridge. On the mound, Colton Ramsey gave up three earned runs on five hits in four innings in getting the start for the Lions.
Plemmons went 2-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored to pace the Trojans. Jared Aarons was 2-for-4. Andy Rief walked and was hit by a pitch. On the mound, Mitch Shelby allowed three earned runs on six hits in three innings. Caleb Kutsche took the loss after giving up one earned on four hits in three innings of relief.
After sitting out the first two games, Lassiter second baseman Nelson Ward will be available for today’s deciding contest. His presence may or may not make a difference for Lassiter, but the speedy lead-off hitter is capable of solid at-bats in the lineup.
“We’ll find out what kind of a factor (Ward) will be (Saturday),” Kelly said. “He’s missed two games. (Peachtree Ridge) is going to play the game hard. They won’t care who’s out there starting at second base. Nelson Ward’s a good player. He’ll be back out there and we’ll see what happens. It doesn’t mean it’s a shoe-in.”