Evans is riding high, Greenbrier crept by, and Lakeside said goodbye.
That's the short story of the three Columbia County prep baseball teams competing in the second round of the Georgia High School Association state playoffs last week.
Lakeside was in Gray, Ga. to take on the Jones County Greyhounds in a Class AAAA best-of-three series.
The Panthers held an 8-5 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh in Game 1 Wednesday, but Jones County belted a pair of homers and stole a 9-8 win. Lakeside showed some character in the nightcap by blasting the Greyhounds 19-9, with the key shot being a grand slam by Wes Turner.
Despite the comeback in the second game, Lakeside senior Matt Josephson knew Lakeside had squandered a golden opportunity.
"We should have swept," Josephson said.
The doubleheader split forced a Game 3 showdown Thursday. Carlos Markyana started at pitcher for Lakeside, but experienced arm problems and came out after facing two batters.
Josephson relieved and worked through the seventh. He fanned 13 Jones County batters, but also gave up a grand slam.
With the contest tied 6-6, the Greyhounds scored three runs in the eighth. Lakeside (22-9) couldn't muster a rally in the bottom half, and the Panthers' season ended with a 9-6 loss.
In a second-round Class AAAAA series at Evans, the Knights swept Groves by scores of 6-1 and 9-0.
Pitchers Justin Walker and John Wehr dominated the Rebels. Walker struck out nine in Game 1, while Wehr posted a shutout in Game 2.
The Knights (23-6) now advance to the state quarterfinals against Lassiter. The best-of-three series starts with a 5 p.m. doubleheader Monday in Atlanta. Game 3, if necessary, would be on Tuesday.
During the second-round sweep Wednesday at Evans, Walker added a home run on offense, as the Knights recorded 17 hits in the series. Chance Smith had two hits in each game, Seth Newsome was 2 for 2 in the opener and Travis Clark was 2 for 4 in Game 2.
Evans has not made it past the state quarterfinals since 1995, but with his team currently on a playoff roll, first-year coach Ricky Beale thinks this might be the season to break that quarterfinal jinx.
"We're hitting the ball real well right now," Beale said. " Lassiter always has a real good ball team. If our pitching keeps going, that will give us a chance."
The Greenbrier-Heritage series could have been dubbed "The grudge match at the Brierpatch."
The Patriots appeared to knock the Pack out of the playoffs last season, but Heritage violated GHSA rules; Greenbrier filed a protest - which was upheld by the GHSA - and won the second-round series via forfeit.
That past history heightened the tension during last week's rematch, but Greenbrier took the best-of-three series 2 games to 1 behind two victories by senior pitcher Nick Wandless.
"There was a lot of pressure, with all of the controversy from last year. They were talking trash the whole time, on the internet and everywhere else," Wandless said. "But we stepped up. The better team won - we're moving on to the third round and they're going home."
Wandless threw a 2-hit, complete game to pace the Pack to a 3-1 win in the opener, but Heritage edged the Pack 4-3 in Game 2 of the Wednesday doubleheader.
That set the stage for the deciding game on Thursday, and Greenbrier was ready.
Wandless returned to the mound and went the distance. He received plenty of run support during the 7-2 win - Graham Posey was 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI, Robert Davis had two hits, Philip Tapley plated a pair of runs, and Wandless helped himself by going 2 for 2 with two RBI.
Greenbrier's defensive star was third baseman Adam Turner. The junior handled 14 chances without an error in the series.
"I just knew we were going to win," Turner said. "I didn't have any other thought in my mind. We're uniting as a team and starting to play some real good ball."
The Pack (23-6) will attempt to carry that positive mind-set into a road-series against the Central Gwinnett-Lakeview Ft. Oglethorpe winner. That Class AAAA quarterfinal action begins with a doubleheader on Monday. Game 3, if necessary, would be Tuesday.
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