Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Parkview's Ryan Blanton (4) congratulates his teammate Michael Craig (32) after scoring aginst Milton during the semifinals of Class AAAAAA state baseball playoffs in Lilburn Monday. Parkview defeated Milton 4-0 in game 1.
LILBURN -- Trouble brewed for Parkview in the first inning of both games of its Class AAAAAA state baseball semifinal doubleheader with Milton on Monday at Hugh Buchanan Field.
Mac Marshall was able to escape in the opener, and combined with Sam McCoy to set the tone for the Panthers' 4-0 win in the opener.
But the Eagles jumped on Parkview for seven runs in the first inning of the nightcap, and Dylan Cease ran with the early support with a strong outing as Milton knotted the series with a 10-1 win, forcing a deciding Game 3 today at 6 p.m. at Buchanan Field.
"I'll give (Cease) all the credit in the world," Parkview (27-8) coach Chan Brown said of the Milton junior right-hander. "He pitched well. ... He shut us down. But it doesn't matter what you do. You can't walk seven batters and hit four more and expect to win. The tempo on the mound in Game 2 was not good for us. So, we've got to come out, and it's a new day, and we get a chance to move on."
It took Marshall (6-2) awhile to find the strike zone in the early going of Game 1, as the junior walked the first three Milton (26-8-1) batters on 13 pitches to walk the bases loaded with nobody out in the top of the first.
But the Georgia-committed lefty battled back to strike out Jack Thompson and induce infield pop ups from Dalton Ewing and Alec Cease to escape the inning unscathed.
"What can you say? (Marshall) responded," Brown said. "He got out of it and changed the momentum for us. He settled in and got the job done for us."
Marshall seemed energized from that point, throwing 89 pitches and giving up just two hits and striking out nine overall while walking just one more hitter in five shutout innings.
But the Panthers weren't doing much more with Milton starter Payton Smith until McCoy led off the bottom of the third with a single before being forced at second on Trevor Brown's bunt attempt.
Ryan Blanton then sent a high fly ball down the right field line that had just enough distance to clear the fence for a two-run home run that gave Parkview a 2-0 lead.
McCoy then gave the Panthers a little insurance in the bottom of the fifth by taking a 1-0 pitch from Smith over the wall in left-center for a solo homer that extended the lead to 3-0.
The sidewinding senior right-hander, who had two hits in the game at the plate, turned out to the a primary beneficiary of that insurance when he took over for Marshall on the mound.
After retiring the Eagles in order in the sixth and getting another insurance run on an unearned run in the bottom of the inning, McCoy had to pitch out of a little trouble in the seventh.
Alex Schnell led off with a double down the right-field line and looked to advance further when Alec Miller sent a sinking liner to left.
But Micah Finley charged in and made a sliding catch with half the ball showing before throwing back to Daino Deas for second for the double play.
McCoy then induced Dalon Farkas into a ground out to short to lock down his 10th save of the season, and Game 1 for the Panthers.
In the nightcap, Parkview starter Christian Vann (7-2) also got into early trouble with a bloop single by Ryan Gridley and walks to Sean Ryn Brophy and Cease, plus a wild pitch, to fall behind 1-0.
But unlike his fellow junior left-hander, Vann was unable to limit the damage, with Thompson hitting a three-run homer to extend the Milton lead to 4-0.
Things only got worse from there, as two more walks forced Vann out of the game after just 33 pitches, while the Eagles added three more runs on Steven Reale's two-run double and a bases-loaded walk to Cease of two different Parkview relievers to push the lead to 7-0.
"The second game, we were a tad more patient and got some better pitches to hit," said Milton coach Joey Ray, a Brookwood grad and former Broncos player. "We have confidence in all our pitchers, but especially Dylan. He hasn't lost a game all year. You kind of lift yourself up a little bit after you lose Game 1 (with the early outburst)."
And that was more than enough for Cease (9-0), who limited the Panthers to just three this and one unearned run and fanned 10 over 5 innings before giving way to the Milton bullpen.
Nick Bradshaw and Reale led the Eagles with two hits apiece, with Reale driving in three runs, while Rob Youngblood went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Panthers.