Baseball, the last of 16 Georgia high school sports to declare state champions, is down to the finals beginning Saturday. Well-represented among 10 finalists are Gwinnett County (Parkview, Brookwood, Providence Christian) and rural southeast Georgia (Appling County, Pierce County, Charlton County).
Here’s a closer look at the best-of-three championship series in each classification:
AAAAA – Six miles apart off Five Forks Trickum Road, Parkview and Brookwood have met six times for state titles – five in soccer, once in football. This is the first time they’ve met for a baseball state championship. Parkview has won four state titles, most recently in 2011. Brookwood has won two, most recently in 2008. Parkview (29-6) is the Region 8 champion and ranked No. 1 in the state, but is 0-2 against Brookwood (25-10), losing 5-2 and 7-3 in April. Brookwood’s ace is Lucas Sims (8-0, 1.09 ERA), the consensus No. 1 pitching prospect in Georgia. Leadoff man Cedric Mullins (.426, 5 HR) has been the top hitter. Parkview pitchers Matt Olson (11-1, 1.79) and Jesse Foster (11-0, 2.06) are tough to beat. Parkview’s top hitters are Olson (9 HR, 47 RBI) and Josh Hart (.393, 27 SB).
AAAA – Greenbrier (30-3) has won five state titles, most recently in 2007. Loganville (29-8) won its only state title the next year, beating Greenbrier in the quarters. Greenbrier is led by Georgia Tech-bound pitcher Jordan Hunt (10-0 overall, 4-0 in the state playoffs). Loganville junior center fielder Clint Frazier (.453, 21 HR) has committed to Georgia. His two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning beat Johns Creek 2-1 in the clinching semifinal game.
AAA – Ringgold’s hopes of a state title were thought doomed in March, when top-prospect Matthew Crownover was lost to elbow surgery. But Corey Kafka (9-2) and Adam Weldon (9-2) are top college pitching prospects as well, each with 90 mph-plus heat, and No. 3 starter Austin Parrish is 9-0. Remember that Ringgold didn’t have a baseball field a year ago after tornadoes ravaged the area. The school has persevered. Columbus is the two-time defending champion. Top players are Kyle Carter and J.T. Phillips, a pair of Georgia signees who were Little League World Series teammates.
AA – Appling (33-2) and Pierce (29-7) are bordering Southeast Georgia counties. Appling won the regular-season meetings 8-4 and 10-5. Appling’s Byron Buxton, a center fielder and pitcher with a 95-mph fastball, is a potential top-five overall pick in the pro draft. Appling has never won a state title in any boys sport. Pierce has never won a state title outside of golf.
A – Providence (25-11) faces Charlton (29-4) in what could be the final meeting between small private and public schools in the baseball state playoffs. The GHSA will hold separate state championships in almost every sport beginning in 2012-13. Also historic is Christin Stewart’s bid for the state record for home runs in a career. The Providence slugger has 69, tied with current San Diego Padres pitcher Micah Owings of Gainesville. See Stewart hit No. 69.
Brookwood at Parkview, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Greenbrier at Loganville, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Columbus at Ringgold, Monday, 4 p.m.
Pierce County at Appling County, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Providence Christian at Charlton County, Monday, 2 p.m.
Note: Schedule subject to change.