Staff Photo: John Bohn Parkview first baseman Matt Olson (21) takes a throw from pitcher Jessee Foster in an attempt to catch Mill Creek baserunner Bryan Hudson (25) off of first base, during the third inning of a Class AAAAA semifinal baseball playoff game on Tuesday. Parkview defeated Mill Creek to advance to the state championship.
LILBURN -- Shane Seckinger gave No. 5 state-ranked Mill Creek his usual reliable pitching performance in Game 2 of the Hawks' Class AAAAA semifinal series with Parkview.
But the top-ranked Panthers got an even better one from Jesse Foster.
The senior right-hander threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout with six strikeouts, and the defending champions added on three runs in the top of the seventh to break open a close game and post a 5-0 victory Tuesday at Hugh Buchanan Field.
"Jesse's a special pitcher," Parkview coach Chan Brown said. "He really has been the last four years. He continues to grow and knows how to pitch in key situations."
The sweep of the series, which began with a 5-4 walk-off win in Game 1 Monday, sends Parkview (29-6) into the finals against neighborhood rival Brookwood with a chance to defend last year's crown.
And Foster (11-0) was a major reason why, facing just four over the minimum and giving up only singles to B.J. Harmon in the first, Ben Crowder in the third and Logan Moseley in the seventh and having one more runner reach on an error in the second.
"I knew if I kept my team in the game, eventually we'd put some runs up," said Foster, who lowered his season earned run average to 2.06. "And we did."
But it would take a while for the Panthers to do so against Seckinger (9-2), who was also throwing well by retiring nine of the first 10 hitters he faced.
But Josh Hart and Matt Olson got to the junior right-hander for back-to-back singles to lead off the fourth before taking off on a double steal.
Instead of trying to gun down the speedy Hart, Mill Creek catcher Tyler Boldt threw toward second, but Olson slid in safely.
After Seckinger struck out Jarrett Freeland, he then sent a nasty breaking pitch into the dirt to get a swinging Hunter Thornton for strike three.
But the ball bounced all the way to the backstop, allowing Hart to dash home and give Parkview a 1-0 lead.
"That double steal wound up being big for us," Brown said. "Even with the (wild pitch), that run doesn't score without the double steal."
The run also gave Foster a little wiggle room, especially after pitching around baserunners in each of the first three innings.
And the Panthers struck for another run an inning later when Edwin Arias sent a 1-2 pitch just inside the bag at first for a two-out RBI triple to make the lead 2-0, Foster's confidence level grew exponentially.
"A 2-0 (lead) is a lot bigger," Foster said. "One swing of the bat can change a 1-0 lead. When we made it 2-0, that gave me a little breather room. And about the fifth, I had a nice, quick inning. I knew I was pretty much in the zone."
Indeed, Foster was in the zone, setting down 12 straight Mill Creek (24-11) hitters at one point, and retiring 15 of the last 16 overall.
And any realistic hopes the Hawks had of a comeback faded when the Panthers got to a tiring Seckinger, who threw over 110 pitches, and Cody Pugh, who came out of the bullpen after throwing 56 pitches in starting Game 1 Monday, in the top of the seventh.
Hart drove in one with a fielder's choice grounder and later scored on an error and Thornton, who finished the day 2-for-4, drove in another with an RBI single before Foster closed out the game by retiring the side in the seventh after Moseley's leadoff single.
"Tip your hat to Jesse Foster," Mill Creek coach Doug Jones said. "That was as good a game as we've had thrown against us all year. And tip your hat to Shane Seckinger. He made some kids who are going to be playing at a high level (in the future) struggle. But to (Parkview's) credit, they got the key hits when they needed them, and (Seckinger) got a little fatigued. And when we don't score any runs, it's difficult."
Seckinger went 6 innings and gave up five hits and three earned runs with eight strikeouts before leaving.
The seventh-inning rally also proved somewhat costly to Parkview when Arias, who was 2-for-4 on the day, injured his left shoulder with a hard slide into second while trying to break up a potential double play on Hart's fielder's choice grounder.