Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Mill Creek Tripp Adams (3) welcomes his teammate Logan Moseley (5) into the dugout after scoring a run against Camden County during the quarterfinals of Class AAAAA baseball playoffs at Mill Creek High School on Tuesday.
The pessimist could look at Gwinnett's remaining teams in the state high school baseball playoffs and note that the county will be unable to match last year's feat in which local teams brought home state championships in three different classifications.
On the other hand, there is still an opportunity for local teams to claim titles in two classifications as the playoffs move into the semifinal round Monday.
And the county's "glass-half-full" types have every reason to take pride in this year's accomplishments on the diamond, with five teams still standing as the playoffs move into the semifinal round Monday.
Perhaps most impressive is the fact four of those teams -- Brookwood, Grayson, Mill Creek and defending state champion Parkview -- make up the entire remaining bracket in the state's highest classification, Class AAAAA.
"It's awesome," said Mill Creek coach Doug Jones, whose No. 5 state-ranked Hawks (24-9) visit Hugh Buchanan Field to take on top-ranked Parkview (27-6) in a best-of-three series beginning with a doubleheader at 4:30 p.m. Monday. "I've been a Gwinnett baseball fan all my life. I don't ever remember anything like this happening. It's an exciting time for all the schools."
The feat of teams from a single county monopolizing the entire Final Four of a state playoff is believed to be unprecedented.
Gwinnett has come close in several other seasons by sending three teams to the semifinals four times since 2006, including this year in Class AAAAA boys soccer, a title Collins Hill still has a chance to win.
It's a feat made even more impressive considering the two Gwinnett regions, 7-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA, were matched up with each other in the first round of the playoffs, thus instantly cutting the local postseason contingent in half.
"That amazing part is that we beat each other up in the first round," said Jones, who has been involved with high school baseball in Gwinnett County for more than 30 years as a player and assistant coach at Parkview and a head coach at Brookwood before starting the Mill Creek program in the spring of 2005. "I think it's a testament to both regions and the (individual) teams."
The local showing by the Gwinnett quartet has become a point of pride throughout the county's high school baseball community.
"I've had several county coaches from both (Gwinnett) regions (7 and 8) email me. They emailed all of us (coaches still alive in the Class AAAAA playoffs)," said current Brookwood coach Rick Howard, whose Broncos (23-9) welcome third-ranked Grayson (27-6) to the Dave Hunter Complex for a doubleheader beginning Monday at 4 p.m. "It's interesting because usually when you get this far, you're so unfamiliar with who you're playing. In this situation, everybody is familiar with one another."
Indeed, all four teams should be plenty familiar with each other, with Brookwood, Grayson and Parkview all competing in Region 8-AAAAA, while Region 7-AAAAA champion Mill Creek played both Parkview and Brookwood in the regular season.
That familiarity should only add to an already intense atmosphere for the players, an intensity Howard believes has only grown stronger with the fact all four of these teams have primarily stayed together during the summers, rather than dispersing to concentrate on their travel programs.
"I think (the success) says a lot about our teams' chemistry," Howard said. "The coaches here to do a great job of developing players over 30 games, or whatever the number is, that they get to play in the summer. It's time they get to spend with the kids and get an idea of what their strengths are and what they need to work on.
"From a camaraderie standpoint, (summer ball) it's huge. The players take a lot of pride. You can tell in their eyes how much it means them and how much they play for each other."
While the all-Gwinnett Class AAAAA semifinal is a huge story, the county's other remaining team -- Providence Christian (23-10), which hosts Savannah Christian (21-11) in a Class A semifinals series Monday -- is another example of just how strong the county's baseball scene has become.
The Stars are not only in the state semifinals for the third time in the last five seasons, but they also demonstrated just how much it has taken to defeat a Gwinnett team in the postseason this year after dethroning reigning champion Hebron Christian in Tuesday's Class A quarterfinal.
Gwinnett's other defending champion, Buford, was ousted by Pierce County in the Class AA quarterfinals, though it took a three-game series, with two needing extra innings, to do it.