Local rivalries will play out on a big stage Saturday when the high school baseball championship series get underway.
Three of the five best-of-three state final series match teams from the same region if not neighborhood. They are Milton vs. Roswell (north Fulton) in AAAAAA, Marist vs. Redan (DeKalb) in AAAA and Westminster and Lovett (Buckhead) in AA.
‘’There’s a lot of buzz on both sides,’’ Milton coach Joey Ray said of the Milton-Roswell series. “A lot of people who don’t necessarily follow high school sports, they ask who are you playing, and when you say Roswell, they immediately go, ‘Ooh!’ They get excited. We’ll get a hefty turnout of students, alumni and honestly just neighborhood folks who want to be a part of it.’’
Here is a look at the five remaining state championship series. Eagle’s Landing and Charlton County won Class A championships earlier this month.
AAAAAA – Milton and Roswell are the oldest schools in north Fulton County and first played each other in sports in 1950. Milton has beaten Roswell 7-3 and 6-1 this year while winning Region 5 and eliminated two-time defending state champion Parkview in the semifinals on Alex Schnell’s one-hit shutout in Game 3. Roswell last won a baseball state title in 1986, although coach Mike Power led Harrison to a championship in 1998.
AAAAA – Greenbrier, a five-time state champion, is seeded only fourth from its region but has won four playoff series on the road. In five rounds, Greenbrier will have driven 1,600 miles and 28 hours – the equivalent of traveling to New York City and back. And that’s not counting a potential return to Pope, in Marietta, for Game 3. Pope beat Starr’s Mill in the semifinals when Nathaniel Lowe delivered a walk-off single in an 8-7 victory in Game 3.
AAAA – Marist, with 12 state titles in its history, beat Redan in Game 3 of a series that decided the Region 6 championship last month. Marist is 10-0 since then. Redan is 9-1. Though five of its graduates have played in the major leagues, including Wally Joyner and Brandon Phillips, Redan has never won a state title in baseball.
AAA – Cartersville has won five state titles since 2001, most recently 2009. North Hall has won only one state championship in any sport (2006 boys cross country) but has made the semifinals or better in football, boys basketball this academic year. North Hall’s rotation of Preston Graham (8-1, 1.54 ERA), Adam Kelly (6-0, 0.41) and Colton Duttweiler (8-1, 1.34 ) is formidable. Cartersville’s ace is Air Force-signee Hayes Linn.
AA – Westminster won Region 5 and was 3-0 against Lovett, although Lovett had won their 17 previous meetings from its West Paces Ferry Road neighbor. Westminster has won nine of a possible 10 state championships this spring, an unprecedented run in state history, but its last baseball state championship was 1975. The Game 1 matchup should be special. Hays Meyer of Westminster threw a no-hitter against Pepperell in the semifinals while Lovett junior Mitch Stallings struck out 10 against Benedictine.
State championship series
AAAAAA – Roswell at Milton, 4:30 p.m.
AAAAA – Greenbrier at Pope, 3 p.m.
AAA – Cartersville at North Hall, 5 p.m.
AA – Lovett at Westminster, 6 p.m.
AAAAA – Redan at Marist, 3 p.m.
Note: All are double-headers. Third games, if necessary, will be played on Monday, or Tuesday in AAAAA.