Olson leads Panthers' charge to second straight title with sweep of Brookwood

The Parkview baseball team celebrates its Class AAAAA state championship after defeating Brookwood.

The Parkview baseball team celebrates its Class AAAAA state championship after defeating Brookwood.

LILBURN -- Sometimes it's the biggest names that come up big in clutch situations for a championship team. Other times, it's the unsung heroes.

Parkview got contributions of both types in Saturday's Class AAAAA baseball state championship showdown with archrival Brookwood at Hugh Buchanan Field.

The biggest came from its most visible star Matt Olson, who gave a complete-game effort on the mound and smacked a two-run home run to help the Panthers take a 5-2 win in Game 1, before breaking a tie game with a solo homer and starting a key three-run rally in the seventh as the Panthers completed the sweep with a 6-3 win in the nightcap.

But Parkview (31-6) also got contributions from lesser-known players to become the first team in the state's highest classification to complete back-to-back titles since the Panthers of 2001-02 -- players like A.J. Davis (2-for-5, HR, 3 RBIs on the day) and Ryan Blanton (4-for-7, RBI).

"I knew we could do it. I knew we had the talent. I knew we had the chemistry. I knew we had the heart," Parkview coach Chan Brown said. "But a couple of weeks ago, we started getting people hurt and this and that. ... There have been some kids who have stepped up, taken it from the heart and brought it back here. I can't say enough for these kids.

"And what can you say about Matt? The bigger the situation, the bigger Matt's going to come through. It's been that way since he's been in ninth grade here."

It was that way Saturday as the senior pitcher/first baseman finished the doubleheader 4-for-7 with two homers and three RBIs at the plate, and went the distance in Game 1, scattering five hits and two unearned runs with five strikeouts.

"I was just doing what I could personally for the team," Olson said. "My past couple of starts have been bad. So, I wanted to come out here and set the tone because (Brookwood is) really good when they get momentum."

He definitely set the tone in the opener, which was influenced by defense, both good and bad, from both teams.

The Panthers and Broncos (25-12) each turned two double plays and made several other nifty plays in the field, but also committed errors that led to runs.

And with four miscues, Brookwood's mistakes were more costly, starting with a throwing error on Jack Esmonde's bunt single that followed singles by Hunter Thornton and Jarrett Freeland to start the bottom of the third in a scoreless game.

The error put Parkview in front, and the lead became 2-0 when Ryan Blanton lined a single down the left field line, though Garrett Reynolds hit Michael Gouge with a perfect throw, and Gouge delivered the relay to gun down another runner at the plate.

"(Parkview) capitalized on those mistakes," Brookwood coach Rick Howard said. "We made some errors that we haven't (made lately), and to their credit, they capitalized."

Olson took matters into his own hands in the bottom of the third after Josh Hart avoided another double play by legging out the back end of a fielder's choice grounder to second to extend the inning.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior then launched a 1-1 offering from Lucas Sims (8-1) off the roof of the batting cages beyond the fence in right-center for a two-run homer, extending the Panthers' lead to 4-0.

Olson (12-1) then got a little help from his defense after Brookwood put two runners on with one out in the fourth when Edwin Arias and Jack Esmonde turned an unlikely double play on a high-hopper from Sims to end the inning.

But after Parkview cashed in on three errors to get an insurance run in the fifth, a Panther error after back-to-back singles by Jordan Dykes and Michael Gouge, plus a wild pitch, with two outs in the sixth brought the Broncos back to within 5-2.

However, Olson bore down and struck out Sims to get out of the inning without further damage before setting down Brookwood in order in the seventh to close out the complete-game win.

For his part, Sims (8-1) didn't pitch poorly, going the distance and giving up seven hits and just three earned runs and striking out seven over six innings.

Likewise, Allen Tokarz (4-6) threw his trademark game by inducing 16 groundball outs during a strong outing of 6 innings.

But the right-hander left two pitches too far up, and both cost Brookwood.

The first came with a runner on with one out in a 1-1 game in the fifth, when Davis yanked an inside pitch over the wall in left field for a two-run homer that put Parkview in front 3-1.

"I was looking for a change-up on the outside corner because that's what he'd thrown me a few pitches before," Davis said. "Momentum was constantly shifting especially with the rivalry us and Brookwood. We know how bad they want it."

After managing just one run on Sims' solo homer in the second off Jesse Foster, momentum shifted back the Broncos' way in the bottom of the sixth when Jack Esmonde (5-1) entered the game.

Michael Gouge, Ryan Woodard and Sims all greeted the senior right-hander with doubles, the latter two driving in runs that pulled Brookwood even at 3-3.

But that tie lasted until Olson strode to the plate again after Tokarz had set down the first two hitters quietly in the Parkview seventh.

"I just thought he was going to come at me and try to have a quick inning," Olson said. "So, I went up to the plate aggressive."

And the senior wasted no time, jumping on Tokarz's first pitch and sending a towering drive over the the batting cages and onto the softball field in the ravine below for a solo homer that put the Panthers back in front 4-3.

Esmonde then settled down and pitched around singles by Cedric Mullins and Gouge to get Sims to line out to Blanton in right to seal the title for the Panthers.


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