Norcross beats region champ Johns Creek to advance

JOHNS CREEK -- Norcross played out nearly every situation a team could find itself in during a doubleheader on Friday.

The Blue Devils led. They trailed. They coughed up advantages. They rallied.

But most importantly, Norcross won. And not just one game, but both contests it had on the road Friday against Johns Creek, by scores of 5-4 and 3-2, respectively. In doing so, the fourth-seeded Blue Devils (19-9) knocked off the Gladiators, the champions from Region 6-AAAAAA, to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Even Jonathan Wyman found it difficult to put his team's accomplishment into words.

"I'm just speechless. They played their tails off out there," the Norcross head coach said. "And you've got to take your hat off to Johns Creek, too. They're a really good team and they showed it today. You can see why some people had them winning the whole thing. I'm just proud of my guys."

No area pleased Wyman more than his team's timely hitting in high-pressure at-bats. Game 1 went 11 innings before Jess Ramsey stepped in. With the teams knotted at 4-all since the end of the seventh inning, the Blue Devils' senior third baseman finally broke the tie with his RBI single in the 11th inning, pushing the go-ahead run across the plate in the 5-4 win.

Norcross was in need of a similarly clutch hit in Game 2. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, sophomore Mike Perez stepped to the plate. With two runners on and one out, Perez lined a shot into shallow left field. It was deep enough for both, runners score, though, giving Norcross its first lead of the contest, proving to be the series-clinching hit for the Blue Devils.

Not that Wyman was surprised the sophomore delivered the blow to end the Gladiators' (18-9) season. He recalled the pinch-hit double Perez had against Duluth last week, which helped Norcross clinch the No. 4 seed in Region 7-AAAAAA.

"He's been doing this ever since we brought him up (from junior varsity) three weeks ago," Wyman said. "And he's a good example of what we always tell the team. 'You never know when it's going to be your time, so you have to be ready for it.' And it's obvious Mike was today."

There was no doubting the effect weather had on the series, either. Game 1 was originally scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. However, with the threat of inclement weather disrupting and possibly postponing the Friday doubleheader, it was decided first pitch would be moved up to 3 p.m. But, the weather cooperated. It was cold and windy for fans in attendance, but both games were completed.

That Norcross was able to avoid returning to Johns Creek for a second consecutive day delighted Wyman.

And it went beyond merely winning a pair of baseball games.

"My wife is scheduled to run a 5K tomorrow, and we didn't have anyone to keep our (infant) daughter," he said. "So it looks like I'm going to be playing baby sitter tomorrow."