Denmark, a 9-month-old school with a baseball team that entered the state playoffs with a 12-15 record, will be playing for a state championship next week.
The Danes, out of Forsyth County, defeated nationally ranked Blessed Trinity 8-4 in the decisive Game 3 of a Class AAAA semifinal series on Wednesday night in the upset of the Georgia high school baseball season.
Denmark took a 7-1 lead after two innings and held on. Matthew Cassandra homered and joined three teammates – Jack Kream, Trevor Bryk and Carson Russell – with two hits apiece. Cassandra also pitched the first six innings and got the win.
Denmark’s more dramatic victory came in Game 2 after Blessed Trinity – 31-9 and ranked No. 26 nationally by MaxPreps - had won the opener.
Denmark trailed 3-1 entering the bottom of the sixth inning when Kream hit a two-run homer. Denmark then won 4-3 on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth. Cassandra, who led off with a double, scored the game-winning run.
Denmark, coached by David Smart, finished 12-15 in the regular season and 6-6 in Region 7-AAAA and needed to win its final five games just to make the playoffs. The Danes have advanced four playoff rounds on the road.
Now, Denmark will be playing Northside-Columbus – Smart’s former team – for the championship next week at State Mutual Stadium in Rome. Smart was hired last spring after leading Northside to two state quarterfinal appearances. The finals will also be Northside’s first in baseball.
Here are summaries of all 16 semifinal series completed on Wednesday. Several more were suspenseful.
Rockmart beat Callaway 7-5 in Game 3 after trailing 5-2 entering the bottom of the seventh and final inning. Jeff Davis trailed 12-7 in its Game 3 against Bleckley County and won 13-12. Savannah Christian beat Wesleyan in its final at-bat.
The eight state finals will be May 20-23 as various sites around the state.
Hillgrove d. Grayson 9-4, 4-1: Austin Heard (4.2 IP), Alex McKay (1.2 IP) and Fred Wilson (0.2 IP) combined on a three-hitter in clinching Game 2. Deion Walker hit two home runs in Game 1. Zach Stewart was 3-for-4, and Wade Richardson was 2-for-3 with two doubles. Hillgrove advanced to the finals for the second time, first since 2011, when the Hawks lost to Parkview.
Parkview d. North Gwinnett 9-6, 9-3: Parkview, the defending champion,
was 27-for 57 in the series. Allan Del Castillo, Stephen Hrustich and Jon Ponder had four hits apiece. Hrustich had a homer and six RBI.
Heritage-Conyers d. Effingham County 4-1, 6-11, 12-1: Nick Garcia was 3-for-4 with a double and four RBI while Calabria Atkins was 2-for-3 with a homer and a double and four RBI in Game 3. Cole Smith was 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Heritage scored in all five innings and had 13 hits. Nolan Woodward allowed four hits and no earned runs. Heritage has been in the finals three previous times (2007, 1984, 1982) but never won a championship.
Pope vs. Harrison 12-0, 3-5, 5-0: Pope, the defending champion, got a three-hit shutout from Reid Robertson in Game 3. He struck out four. Max Pralgo was 3-for-4. Nate Shipley, Ian Hancock and Caden Smith each had two hits. Pralgo pitched a five-inning two-hit shoutout in Game 1. Smith was 3-for-3 with four RBI in that victory.
Loganville d. Locust Grove 11-5, 6-1: Defending champion Loganville is back in the finals. Connor Bruce pitched a three-hitter without allowing an earned run in Game 2. Blaine Marchman was 3-for-3 with two doubles. In Game 1, Josh Haynes, Dylan Strickland and Brocker Way homered for Loganville. Michael Knight was 3-for-4.
Ola vs. Decatur 11-10, 6-4: Ola advanced to the finals for the first time. Patrick Holloman was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and pitched the final inning, getting two strikeouts, in Game 2. In Game 1, Holloman hit a grand slam for a 10-7 lead in the sixth inning. Chaz Salter singled in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning of the one-run victory. Garrett Carter went 4-for-4.
Northside-Columbus d. North Oconee 5-6, 6-5, 3-1: Northside took a 3-0 lead after three innings and held on behind Will Graydon (5.2 IP, 1 ER) and Hunter Poe (1.1 IP, 0 ER). Mack Williams hit a solo homer. Northside won Game 2 on with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning after trailing 5-4. Williams and Connor O’Neal had RBI singles in the inning. O’Neal was 4-for-4. Northside will be playing in a championship series for the first time.
Denmark d. Blessed Trinity 3-6, 4-3, 8-4: See lead item.
Pace Academy d. North Hall 9-1, 8-4: Darian Howard was 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBI in Game 2. Andrew Jenkins hit a three-run double for an 8-3 lead in the seventh inning. In Game 1, Brian Zeldin was 4-for-4 with a double, triple and four RBI, and Jenkins hit a two-run homer. T.J. Rafeedie struck out 10 and allowed five hits in a complete game. Pace is in the finals for the first time since its 1993-95 run of three titles.
Pike County d. Hart County 9-2, 4-3: Dylan Garner singled in Coleman Crow, who had tripled, to break a 3-3 tie in the top of the seventh of Game 2. Crowe was 4-for-4 and scored three of Pike County’s four runs. Noah Windhorst was 2-for-3 and pitched a complete game, allowing seven hits. In Game 1, Crow struck out 12 and allowed three hits in the complete game. Davis York homered, and Dylan Garner and Coleman Boynton had two hits apiece. Pike is in a championship series for the second time, first since falling to Buford in the AA finals in 2011.
Jeff Davis d. Bleckley County 0-1, 8-2, 13-12: Jeff Davis, the 2017 AA champion, overcame a 12-7 deficit with two runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth of Game 3 and won despite committing six errors. Britt Metts and Garrison Miles – batting No. 1 and No. 2 in the order – each went 3-for-3 with four runs scored. Metts hit two solo homers. Metts also homered and doubled in the Game 2 victory.
Rockmart d. Callaway 4-5, 4-0, 7-5: Down 5-2 entering the seventh inning of Game 3, Rockmart struck for five runs – all after two were out (the second one a sacrifice fly). C.J. Culver hit a two-run triple to break the 5-5 tie. In Game 2, Ty Floyd pitched a no-hitter with 18 strikeouts. He walked only one. Rockmart was playing in its first semifinal since 1992 and reached the finals for the first time.
Tattnall Square d. Hebron Christian 8-9, 7-3, 8-7: Tattnall Square, the defending champion, led 7-0 after two innings and sweated out the final innings. Trey Ham pitched the final inning, hit the first batter, putting the winning run at the plate, but then struck out three straight batters to end it.
Savannah Christian d. Wesleyan 2-14, 6-3, 3-2: Down 2-1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 3, Savannah Christian scored two runs – the final one on a wild pitch - to win it. Garrett Bradley had doubled in a run to tie the game and advanced to third on the throw home. He then ran home for the game-winner. Joey White was 3-for-3 at the plate and pitched five innings, allowing no earned runs and five hits. Savannah Christian won the Class A private title in 2017, beating Tattnall, its opponent next week.
Gordon Lee d. Bowdon 3-0, 13-4: Defending champion Gordon Lee is back in the finals. Jake Wright pitched a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in Game 1. Chris Potter and Justin Wooden homered in Game 2. Wooden, the leadoff hitter, was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and four RBI.
Schley County d. Irwin County 6-3, 0-6, 10-1: Schley, the 2017 and 2015 champion, got two hits apiece from Garrett Peavy, Dakota Albritton, Dylan Taylor and Michael Wainwright to win it. Lorne Barineau pitched a three-hitter.
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