Staff Photo: John Bohn Parkview's Rob Youngblood (11) slides into a double play while Tift County's Zach Bullard makes a throw to first base during the fourth inning of a second round Class AAAAA playoff game Wednesday.
LILBURN -- If playoff caliber teams are built around starting pitching, then Parkview looks to be in pretty good shape.
Behind two stellar performances from starters Matt Olson and Jesse Foster, the Panthers continued to roll through the Class AAAAA state playoffs with a second-round sweep of Tift County on Wednesday, winning the first game 4-3 and running away in the nightcap 14-1.
Olson's complete-game win in the opener was nearly wasted as the Panthers carried a 3-0 lead in to the seventh, only to see the Blue Devils (14-17) take advantage of two Parkview errors to tie the game at 3-3.
Jeff Ronprin, however, saved the day with a bases-loaded single in the bottom half to plate Edwin Arias for the 4-3 win.
Foster was even more efficient in Game 2, going six innings on just 57 pitches, allowing one run on five hits with three strikeouts and no walks as the Panthers buried Tift 14-1.
"Matt and Jesse are throwing really well for us right now," Parkview head coach Chan Brown said. "We tried to give one away in the first game and nearly took a great performance away from Matt. We made a bad play and we really can't afford to do that."
Olson, who struck out seven with one walk in Game 1, was staked to a 3-0 lead as the Panthers (25-5) plated single runs in the first, third and fourth inning off of Tift starter Nick Utley.
Olson was responsible for two of those runs, driving in Arias with single in the first, while doubling off the wall in the third to push across Josh Hart.
A solo home run from Hunter Thornton in the fourth pushed the lead to 3-0, and with Olson dealing, the Panthers looked to have things in hand.
But the seventh got off to a rocky start. Guy McClung led off the inning for the Blue Devils by swinging at a pitch in the dirt for strike three.
McClung lumbered his way down to first and the throw from the catcher pulled Sam McCoy off the bag at first, allowing McClung to reach.
Will Reinhardt followed with a two-run homer just inside the foul pole down the left field line to cut the score to 3-2.
The Tift bats continued to stir as Zeke Dodson singled on the first pitch he saw and reached second on a sacrifice bunt. An infield error then allowed Dodson to make it to third, allowing Bobby Hughes to tie the game 3-3 on a sacrifice fly to center.
But the Panthers responded, taking advantage of a big error by the Blue Devils to get the walk-off win. Arias, who finished Game 1 2-for-4 with two runs, singled with one out and later made it all the way to third when a pickoff attempt went awry.
The next two hitters were walked to load the bases, and Ronprin singled to center for the winning hit.
"Our kids are a tight-knit bunch and they knew what they had to do," Brown said. "That should be a good character builder for us.
"Jeff (Ronprin) has been a great player for us the past couple of years and has come up big for us in several situations."
While the first game was a close affair, the second game was anything but as the Panthers collected 14 runs on 14 hits for a 14-1 romp.
The top of the order was especially productive as Arias and Hart each had two hits, two RBIs and four runs.
Olson also continuted his good work at the plate, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs, while Ronprin finished 1-for-2 with two RBIs.
"I challenged the guys between games and told them that we need to go out and take care of business," Brown said.
"They came out and really responded."
Rob Youngblood also had a hit and two RBIs in the blowout, while Ryan Blanton finished 2-for-3. Micah Finley also helped, going 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
Zach Bullard started for Tift and went just two innings in taking the loss, giving up five runs on six hits. Deviner McCray followed with five innings of relief, being charged with eight runs (five earned) on eight hits with six strikeouts.
Parkview's opponent in the quarterfinals will the winner of the Hillgrove-Northview winner next Tuesday. Parkview will host if Northview wins but will be on the road if Hillgrove takes the series.