LILBURN — With the Region 8-AAAAAA baseball race hitting the stretch drive, fundamentals become critical as teams jockey for one of the four state playoff berths.
Parkview executed those fundamentals very effectively in Monday night's 7-1 win over Brookwood at Hugh Buchanan Field.
Leadoff hitter Ryan Blanton had his team's only two extra base for with a double and a home run in going 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a stolen base and three runs scored, as the Panthers (14-6, 9-2) remained a game back of region-leading South Gwinnett.
But Parkview found several different ways to score runs throughout the evening, particularly at the top of the order, with Blanton, Hunter Thornton and Josh Hart combining to go 4-for-7, reaching base in nine of 12 total plate appearances and scoring five runs.
"I still feel like we haven't hit our rhythm as a team yet," Panthers coach Chan Brown said. "So, we're still a work in progress. We're still hoping to get hot at the at the right time. Right now, pitching is doing a good job of keeping us in ball games. I feel like the lineup is starting get where it needs to be, but it's not quite there yet. Right now, we're still looking for ways to score."
That was evident in the bottom of the first after Blanton led off with a double and Hart drew a walk one out later.
Brown then put both runners in motion, which paid off when Blanton beat the throw to third on the front end of the double steal, and then came home when the ball went into left field on an error to put Parkview up 1-0.
The lead became 2-0 when Daino Deas delivered a clutch RBI single one out later, and Blanton added a two-run homer an inning later to give the Panthers a comfortable 4-0 advantage.
That lead seemed fairly comfortable behind Mac Marshall (4-2), who had all seven of his strikeouts in the first three innings and scattered three hits through his first four shutout frames.
But after struggling to put the ball in play early, Brookwood (12-9, 6-4) tried to play a little opportunistic ball of its own down 5-0 heading into the top of the fifth.
A lead-off walk to Colin Cotter was followed by a bloop single by Robbie Pestorious and a bunt single by Alvaro Del Castillo one out later to load the bases.
Tre Lawrence then hustled down the first-base line to stay out of a double play on his grounder to short to drive home Cotter and pull the Broncos to within 5-1.
But Marshall buckled down and got Garrett Reynolds to tap back to the mound to get out of the inning and keep the lead at a comfortable four runs.
"We had opportunities (but) we weren't able to cash in on them," Brookwood coach Rick Howard said. "You have to be able to do that. … You've got to put the ball in play and make (the other team) make plays. We weren't able to do that, I know, in three situations when we had runners in scoring position, and it hurt us."
Indeed, the Broncos stranded 10 baserunners on the evening, including six in the last three innings as Marshall and reliever Sam McCoy each pitched out of trouble after the first two Brookwood hitters reached in both the sixth and seventh.
Meanwhile, Parkview added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth on Jarrett Hood's RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Deas, the second baseman's second RBI of the evening.
Hart finished the day 1-for-1 officially with two walks, a hit batsman and two stolen bases to help back the pitching of Marshall, who gave up just the one run on five hits in five-plus innings, and McCoy, who threw the final two shutout innings on one hit with three strikeouts.