Photo: Karl L. Moore Grayson third baseman Oscar Valdes (5) tags out Parkview's Josh Hart (16) after sliding past the base during Friday night's game at Grayson.
LOGANVILLE -- In a game as hotly contested as Friday night's crucial Region 8-AAAAAA baseball game between Parkview and Grayson, even the tiniest breaks can have a major impact.
But one as monumental as the one that occurred in Parkview's half of the eighth inning helped decide the region championship.
An apparent inning-ending fly ball turned into an RBI triple from Josh Hart and helped lift the Panthers to their fourth straight region title with a 4-3 extra-inning win at Grayson.
"The first five or six innings, you can't ask for any better baseball than that from either side," said Parkview coach Chan Brown, whose Panthers (19-6, 14-2) will begin their quest for a third straight state title at home with a first-round playoff match-up against Etowah next week. "Grayson's a heck of a team. And I tell you what, they're going to go a long way in the (Class AAAAAA state playoffs).
"It's a big-game atmosphere. This is a playoff atmosphere. ... Grayson has been there all year. We knew both games were going to be as hard as they could be."
Both starting pitchers -- Parkview's Christian Vann and Grayson's Korey Anderson -- made life difficult for their foes throughout most of the game.
After Micah Finley's RBI single and an error helped stake Parkview to a 2-0 in the top of the first, Anderson set down the next 14 hitters in order before Jarrett Hood's two-out RBI single in the top of the sixth pushed the Panthers' lead to 3-0.
That looked like a commanding lead the way Vann was pitching, as the junior left-hander took a no-hitter into the bottom of the sixth and had set down 15 straight Grayson (18-8, 13-3) hitters.
But Oscar Valdes led off the inning with the Rams' first hit of the game by lofting a single just over the glove of a leaping Daino Deas at second base, and Casey Collins followed with a bunt single down the first base line.
A sacrifice bunt by Jeril Dawson and a walk to Chris Erwin loaded the bases for Austin Meadows, and the nation's top senior prospect delivered a clutch two-run single to left to cut Parkview's lead to 3-2 before an error on Taylor Allum's sharply hit grounder evened the game at 3-3 and chased Vann from the game.
The Rams then had chances to win the game in both the sixth and seventh innings, but Sam McCoy used some clutch pitches to escape trouble in both innings and send the game into extra frames.
Still, given new life, Anderson was rolling along, and the senior right-hander retired the first two hitters in the top of the eighth before issuing a walk to Ryan Blanton.
Hart then sent a fairly deep, but playable, fly ball into right-center that looked like either Erwin in right or Meadows in center would eventually settle under.
"I thought I saw them camped under it," the Georgia Tech-bound center fielder said. "But with the sky and (lights), they were having a hard time seeing it. So, I just hustled (around the bases)."
Neither Grayson outfielder could pick up the ball against the twilight sky and the stadium lights, and it fell in between them for Hart's third hit of the game -- a triple -- that allowed Blanton to scamper home to push Parkview back in front 4-3.
"I don't think (either outfielder) lost it in the lights. I think (they) lost it in the sky. It was tough sky," Grayson coach Jed Hixson said. "It's frustrating for (Anderson), but those things happen. It's part of the game."
McCoy then had one last jam to get out of in the bottom of the inning after Meadows singled with one out.
And he got some help when Deas ranged to his right to collect a chopper up the middle, stepped on second for one out and threw out Allum at first for the game-ending double play.
McCoy (2-1) wound up throwing 2 scoreless innings to pick up the win, while Hart and Hood (2-for-3, RBI) led the Parkview offense.
Anderson took the tough-luck loss despite a strong, complete-game performance in which he scattered eight hits and three earned runs and struck out seven in eight innings of work.
Meadows went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for Grayson, which will play host to Roswell in a first-round series beginning next Friday.