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Collins Hill baseball locks up playoff spot

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Mountain View got its first taste of a baseball playoff atmosphere on Friday night.

The biggest crowd in the school's three-year history showed up for the final game of the regular season with the last playoff spot on the line.

Collins Hill spoiled the big night by beating the Bears 4-0 to lock up the No. 4 seed from Region 7-AAAAA.

"Our region is so tough top to bottom," Collins Hill coach Paul Pierce said. "Our region is very battle-tested."

After missing the playoffs last year, Collins Hill (13-10-1) will play at defending state champion Parkview next Friday in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

"We're going to enjoy tonight," Pierce said. "We're excited to play them and we're going to work hard to prepare."

It was a pitcher's duel between Collins Hill's Wayne Wages and Mountain View's A.J. Moore. Wages got the win by throwing a complete game and striking out 11 and allowing two hits.

"He was outstanding," Pierce said. "He's been our bell cow pretty much all year. He's been in a lot of must-win situations for us to put us in position for the playoffs."

Moore was just as impressive by going six innings and striking out 10 and allowing four hits. The sophomore gave up one earned run.

"He probably deserves a lot better than it shows up there (on the scoreboard)," Mountain View coach Jason Johnson said. "He made some good pitches tonight."

Collins Hill took a 1-0 lead in the fifth and added two more runs in the sixth. Wages led off by reaching on an error and a passed ball sent him to third. John Topoleski's base hit drove in Wages for a 2-0 lead. Topoleski went to second on a passed ball and Nate Williams reached on an error to bring in another run.

Collins Hill's Blake Pulliam hit a solo homer in the seventh for a 4-0 lead.

"They put pressure on us and we didn't really execute," Johnson said. "It was a one-run ball game and we had opportunities, but that's just part of it."

Mountain View's Ben Utley broke up Wages' no-hitter in the bottom of the fifth with a single to left field. Wages responded by striking out the next two batters to end the inning. Peyton Fore got the Bears' only other hit in the sixth.

"Wages did a great job and threw a great game," Johnson said.

Wages struck out the first eight batters he faced and gave up two walks in the fourth. That was the only time Mountain View threatened to score.

Brandon Griffin, who made two great defensive plays at shortstop, led off the inning with a walk. He was the first Mountain View player to reach base all game. Griffin stole second and was tagged out stealing third when Tyler Bethune drew a walk.

A balk and a passed ball sent courtesy runner Joey Bell to third, but the Bears couldn't bring in the run.

Moore was just as impressive to start the game by striking out eight of the first 11 batters he faced.

"A.J. Moore threw outstanding," Pierce said. "I'm just excited Wayne brought his "A" game and went pitch-for-pitch with him."

Collins Hill's Mitch McCain broke up Moore's no-hitter in the fifth inning with a single to shallow left field. Adam Horridge followed with a double to deep right field to drive in pinch runner Chris Clark for the 1-0 lead.

Friday's loss ends Mountain View's season's at 17-9. The Bears began the season 8-0 to set the school record for consecutive wins and beat region champion Mill Creek.

Mountain View graduates six seniors and returns a roster filled with sophomores and juniors.

"Our mindset was, 'This is our first playoff game. We'll have to learn from this game,'" Johnson said. "We played well off and on this year, but I never really felt like we hit that streak. It's exciting for us and scary for other teams in the region that we have a lot coming back. We're excited about our program."