Young meets old in AAAAA finals

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

LILBURN -- From a superficial standpoint, the two teams in the Class AAAAA state championship baseball series, which gets under way today at 4 p.m. at Hugh Buchanan Field, bear very little resemblance to each other.

Parkview has won three state titles in its more than 40-year existence, while Hillgrove is playing in its first championship series since opening in 2006.

However, a closer look reveals the two teams share more in common than simply being the last two teams standing.

"I think these two teams, from listening to people, resemble each other a lot," Parkview coach Chan Brown said. "I hear they're solid one through nine (in the batting order). They kind of resemble us in that they have a lot of left-handed hitters. I hear they have two very quality arms they throw on the mound for Games 1 and 2."

Indeed, both the top-ranked Panthers (27-9) and seventh-ranked Hawks (28-7) have been quite potent at the plate.

Hillgrove has a team batting average of .364 and has scored 8.2 runs per game.

And the Hawks showed just how potent they could be when they scored 20 runs in a three-game victory over Mill Creek in the quarterfinals two weeks ago, led by first baseman Max Oberkofler (.383, 12 HR, 36 RBIs), catcher Michael Adkins (.404, 9 HR, 39 RBIs) and outfielder Ryan Raper (.391, 9 HR, 40 RBIs).

Parkview, meanwhile, has all nine starters hitting .349 or better -- including five hitting .400 or better -- with Edwin Arias (.453, 4 HR, 25 RBIs), Josh Hart (.444, 4 HR, 18 RBIs, 17 SB) and Matt Olson (.418, 14 HR, 45 RBIs) leading the way.

Both teams also have quality pitching -- with the Panthers expected to throw Olson (7-3, 3.72 ERA, 71 K, 64 IP) and Jesse Foster (6-1, 2.52, 54 K, 662/3 IP) and the Hawks countering with Tyler Graham (9-0, 2.16, 71 K, 612/3 IP) and Ben Lumsden (9-3, 1.87, 61 K, 632/3 IP).

However, Hart knows setting the tone early offensively will be important.

"We just want to get momentum going (early)," the sophomore centerfielder said. "It kind of sets up everything. It just brings energy to the game. They have pretty good pitching. We're expecting pretty fast pitching with good location. So, we just have to come out swinging."

Both teams also have plenty to be excited about in this series, with Hillgrove looking for its first state title, while Parkview will be looking for its first since 2002.

"I remember coming out here as a little kid in '02 and just thinking, 'I want to be there someday," Olson said. "I was just in awe of the players that were playing out there. I can't really put into words what it means."