Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Parkview's starting pitcher Mac Marshall, center, celebrates after his teammate Josh Hart (16) hit a three-run home run during the first game of a doubleheader against Peachtree Ridge in the second round of Class AAAAAA state baseball playoffs. Parkview defeated Peachtree Ridge 3-2 in game 1.
LILBURN -- There was somewhat of a power display at the plate during the Class AAAAAA second-round doubleheader between Parkview and Peachtree Ridge.
But those who came to Hugh Buchanan Field on Wednesday expecting to see two slugfests might have been surprised by some of equally powerful pitching performances.
Mac Marshall, Christian Vann and Sam McCoy came up with clutch outings on the mound to outduel Peachtree Ridge's hurlers, while Josh Hart, Ryan Blanton and Jarrett Hood came up with key home runs to help the Panthers earn the sweep with wins of 3-2 and 4-2.
"Both teams brought very good pitching in both games," Parkview coach Chan Brown said after his Panthers (23-7) advanced to the quarterfinals, where they will host Colquitt County beginning next Tuesday. "All four (starting pitchers) were great. And then, we got timely hitting."
Marshall (5-2) was the story in the opener, allowing just two hits and an earned run with 11 strikeouts in five innings.
After resting some tendinitis in his throwing arm last week, the Georgia commitment threw a shaky inning during Parkview's Game 3 win over Etowah on Monday.
"I wasn't real comfortable (in Monday's outing)," Marshall said. "But (the rest of the team) make it easy when they have my back. ... The plan was just to stick with what I do best, and that was just to work ahead (in the count) and hopefully stay ahead. And I knew the guys would make plays behind me, so I was just trying to pound the strike zone."
The junior left-hander looked more like his old self Wednesday, as he dueled with Peachtree Ridge's Tyler Haswell (6-3), and with each dominating through contrasting means.
Marshall worked primarily off a fastball that consistently measured in the low 90s on the radar gun to overpower the bulk of the Lions' (19-12) batting order, while Haswell used a sharp breaking pitch to set up a solid fastball and keep Parkview hitters off balance.
Marshall actually blinked first in the top of the third despite not giving up a hit in the inning.
Chad Pollitt drew a leadoff walk, stole second, went to third on Cam Shepherd's groundout to first and came home on Jonathan Hudson's sacrifice fly to right to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.
And it looked like Haswell might make that lead stand up, as the South Carolina-bound right-hander gave up only a Hart double down the third base line through his first 4 shutout innings.
But with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Trevor Brown, Parkview's No. 9 hitter, steered a single into the outfield, and then went to second when Ryan Blanton singled to right.
That brought up Hart, who deposited Haswell's 1-1 pitch off the top of the batting cage behind the wall in right-center for a three-run homer that vaulted the Panthers into a 3-1 lead.
That was all Haswell would give up, as he yielded just four hits and the three earned runs with six strikeouts over six innings of work.
Meanwhile, Marshall, who was on a strict pitch count, was lifted in the sixth, and Peachtree Ridge had two chances to break through against McCoy.
But the senior right-hander pitched around an error, a Hudson single, an Anthony Perez sacrifice bunt and Drew Wharton's sac fly in the sixth to keep Parkview in front 3-2 after the sixth.
Then, after Blake Best's second hit of the game with one out in the seventh put the tying run on on base, McCoy bore down and struck out Steven Tomlinson and Pollitt to close out the Game 1 win for the Panthers.
In the nightcap, it was more of the same, but this time it was Parkview's Christian Vann (6-1) and Peachtree Ridge's Ryne Inman (4-4) matching each other nearly pitch for pitch.
Inman went six innings, giving up just three Parkview hits and fanning seven Panther hitters.
But he made only two mistakes, and both proved costly.
The first came after Brown came up with another clutch two-out hit to extend the top of the third.
Ryan Blanton then stepped to the plate, and the Georgia State-bound senior launched a mammoth two-run homer onto the softball field in the ravine below to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
The second came after the Lions had scratched for runs on Hudson's RBI single in the bottom of the third and back-to-back doubles by Blake Best and Cooper Burdick in the fourth to pull even at 2-2.
Once again, trouble brewed when Hunter Thornton drew a two-out walk with nobody on in the top of the sixth.
This time, Inman left an inside fastball too far on the inside corner to Hood, who crushed it over the advertising sign in left to put the Panthers back in front 4-2.
And McCoy came on again out of the bullpen, this time in relief of Vann, who scattered seven hits and two earned runs and fanned four over five innings, and got some help from his defense, especially two stellar leaping catches in right field by Blanton.
The senior right-hander was even more effective than in Game 1, retiring all six hitters he faced to record his second save of the day and eighth of the season to lock down the series for Parkview.
It was a tough ending for Peachtree Ridge, which played a solid two games against the two-time defending state champions, but came up just short.
"Our pitchers pitched their tails off," Lions coach Ryan Hanik said. "(Parkview) put three good swings on. Take those three long balls off (the board), and we beat them. I can't be any more proud of our three boys that got on the rubber.
"Blanton makes two plays in right field, robs two (potential extra base hits). The difference was ours he catches and there's were over the wall, ... and Vann and Marshall and McCoy came in and pounded the strike zone and got out of a few jams."Hart finished the day 2-for-5 with the homer, a stolen base and three RBIs, while Blanton was 2-for-6 with the homer and two RBIs and Brown was 2-for-4.
Best led the Peachtree Ridge offense by going 4-for-6, while Hudson was 3-for-5 with two RBIs.