Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Parkview's pitcher Sam McCoy (21) delivers a pitch to a Peachtree Ridge hitter during the first game of a doubleheader of the second round of Class AAAAAA state baseball playoffs. Parkview defeated Peachtree Ridge 3-2 in game 1.
Observers who have gotten used to seeing Gwinnett teams dominating the later rounds of the state baseball playoff brackets will have to look a little farther as this year's postseason moves into the quarterfinal round.
Just two county teams -- two-time defending state champion Parkview (23-7) in Class AAAAAA and Wesleyan (20-10) -- remain when play resumes with doubleheaders Tuesday afternoon.
It's a far cry from the last two seasons, when area teams won five of a possible 10 classification state championships, including occupying all four spots in the semifinals in the highest classification a year ago.
"I hate that we're the only (Gwinnett) AAAAAA team left because some quality baseball teams have been knocked out with Regions 5, 6, 7 and 8 playing each other (in the first two rounds)," said Parkview coach Chan Brown, whose Panthers welcome Colquitt County (20-9) to Hugh Buchanan Field for a quarterfinal series beginning with a doubleheader Tuesday at 5 p.m. "We're always beating each other up. But we're excited. We'll try to go out and represent Parkview as best we can, and hopefully, we can have the support of Gwinnett County."
Likewise, Wesleyan hopes to carry the mantle of Gwinnett County when they travel to Savannah to take on Benedictine (27-3) beginning Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
It's the first time the Wolves have been to the quarterfinals since winning three straight state titles in Classes A and AA from 2008-10, and the first under head coach Brian Krehmeyer.
"It feels great to be back this far in the playoffs," said Krehmeyer, who served as an assistant under Mike Shaheen during Wesleyan's three-peat run. "But it's like I tell our kids. Glory is fleeting. (Being eliminated in early rounds the last two years) made me feel like we'd fallen off the map. But we've truly made our mark being one of the last (eight) teams (in Class AA) remaining."
While the Wolves have been getting production throughout its lineup in the first two rounds, particularly from seniors Griffin Bone and Pierce Ostwalt and sophomore Jamai Jones, very few of those players have any sort of experience playing this deep in the postseason.
By contrast, Parkview's roster is filled with playoff-tested talent, particularly seniors Josh Hart, Ryan Blanton and Rob Youngblood, plus junior Mac Marshall, who were significant contributors to both the Panthers state title teams the last two years, as well as others with at least one year of postseason experience, like Hunter Thornton, Micah Finley and Sam McCoy.
"I think experience definitely (helps)," Brown said of his teams experience. "You think about the first two series, we've had a lot of seniors step up who have been through the wars. So, I think they've stepped up. And I think the other guys, being their first year, have come along nicely."
The other difference between the two teams' situations are the venues.
While Parkview will stay at the friendly and cozy confines of Hugh Buchanan Field for the third straight round by welcoming Colquitt County up from south Georgia, Wesleyan will be hitting the road once again, this time for its longest trip to date.
But that is something else Krehmeyer said his team is actually looking forward to.
"It's actually been kind of fun having been on the road," Krehmeyer said. "We knew what our fate was coming in as a No. 3 seed, and we talked about it and prepared for it. And I think the kids have enjoyed getting out of town and seeing what baseball is like in some of these other communities like Rome (Coosa), and then Jefferson. They're very proud of their athletic teams at both places."