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Panthers falter in Game 2

Photo: David McGregor. Parkview's Rob Youngblood gets tagged out at home by Hillgrove catcher Michael Adkins during the second game of the Class AAAAA state finals on Saturday. The teams split Games 1 and 2 and will play on Monday to decide the state champion.

Photo: David McGregor. Parkview's Rob Youngblood gets tagged out at home by Hillgrove catcher Michael Adkins during the second game of the Class AAAAA state finals on Saturday. The teams split Games 1 and 2 and will play on Monday to decide the state champion.

LILBURN -- After a combined 17 innings, 34 runs and 43 hits -- including 10 home runs -- nothing is decided in the Class AAAAA state championship baseball series after Saturday's doubleheader at Hugh Buchanan Field.

Top-ranked Parkview got a big day out of Matt Olson, including five strong innings on the mound in Game 1, as the Panthers held on for a 6-5 victory in Game 1.

But in the nightcap, visiting Hillgrove rallied from an early six-run deficit and got a walk-off, three-run home run from Robert Stewart in the 10th inning to salvage a split with a 13-10 win.

The two teams return to Buchanan Field on Monday to settle the championship once and for all, with first pitch set for 5:30 p.m. Hillgrove won the coin toss and will serve as the home team.

It will be the third Game 3 situation for the Panthers (28-10), who survived two deciding games to beat North Gwinnett in the second round and Colquitt County in the semifinals, and they remain confident despite dropping Game 2.

"It all comes down to this," said Olson, who added a pair of home runs and five RBIs in the loss in Game 2. "I've got total confidence in our team. ... I think we've got the experience. We're going to have to come out and make pitches and hit like we can and play defense."

The Panthers hit very well early in in the second game, getting nine hits -- including Olson's first-inning, three-run homer -- to take an 8-2 lead after three innings.

But Hillgrove (29-8) came roaring back when an error on a potential double play ball extended the bottom of the fourth.

The Hawks made Parkview pay when Justin Motley launched a grand slam -- his first homer of the season -- and Ryan Raper followed with a solo homer to cut Parkview's lead to 8-7.

Olson's second homer of the game in the sixth gave the Panthers a little breathing room at 10-7, but Michael Adkins answered with his second homer of the game in the bottom of the inning, a three-run shot that knotted the score at 10-10. Adkins finished the day 7-for-8 with the two homers, three doubles and five RBIs.

Both relievers -- Hillgrove's Josh Hagerman (2-0) and Parkview's Phillip Taylor (5-3) were sharp for the next three innings before Taylor hit Max Oberkofler to lead off the 10th, and then an error on Tyler Graham's sacrifice bunt put runners on first and second for Stewart.

The senior second baseman then hit a towering fly to right that hit the top of the wall and bounced over for a homer that evened the series at a game apiece.

"We made some mistakes (in Game 2)," Parkview coach Chan Brown said. "But baseball happens. This is what state championships are supposed to be about -- two very good teams playing each other."

Hillgrove actually outhit the Panthers 12-6 in the opener, but Olson (8-3) was able to dodge enough bullets from eight of those hits to limit the Hawks to just two runs over five-plus innings.

Meanwhile, Parkview made the most of its hits, including Edwin Arias' two-run homer in the bottom of the first, which gave the Panthers an early 2-0 lead.

Hillgrove answered with Tucker Ehmig's solo homer in the second and Adkins' RBI double in the third to pull even again at 2-2.

But Jeff Ronpirin was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third to put Parkview back in front 3-2, and the Panthers cashed in on a Hillgrove error for two more runs in the inning to push the lead to 5-2.

However, a Parkview error on what should have been a game-ending pop-up with the Panthers leading 6-2 extended the seventh inning.

Oberkofler's three-run homer brought Hillgrove to within 6-5, and Tyler Graham followed with a double to right-center to represent the tying run in scoring position.

Jack Esmonde entered the game, and Justin Motley lined his first pitch towards right-center, but Josh Hart was able to run under it and make the catch to secure Esmonde's fourth save of the season, and the Parkview victory.

Arias finished the day with three hits and four RBIs, while Hart went 3-for-6 with four walks and five runs scored and Travis Naraine was 4-for-7 with three doubles and an RBI.


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