Baseball blog: Georgia leads nation with 7 teams in PG top 50

Credit: GHSA

Credit: GHSA

Five of Georgia’s eight newly crowned state baseball champions are in the Perfect Game top 50, and Georgia’s seven overall lead the nation.

The five champions, with their Perfect Game rankings, are No. 7 Houston County, No. 20 North Oconee, No. 25 Loganville, No. 33 Lowndes and No. 39 Harlem. Class 7A runner-up Parkview is No. 36, and Class 5A quarterfinalist Cartersville is No. 39.

Georgia’s seven stand head of California’s six, Florida’s five and Texas’ five.

Houston County, the Class 6A champion, finished 36-6 with its only in-state losses to Marist and Blessed Trinity in the playoffs. Houston County won the deciding Game 3′s decisively against those teams.

Houston County swept defending champion Pope 8-3, 7-4 in the championship series. Andrew Dunford was 5-for-7 at the plate and won Game 2 as the starting pitcher. Drew Burress was 4-for-7 with three doubles, and he saved Game 2 by getting the final five outs, allowing no hits. The title was Houston County’s fourth, all won since 2014.

Another claim for Houston County as Georgia’s best team would be its season-opening 14-2 victory over Lowndes, the Class 7A champion. Lowndes’ title was perhaps the most surprising in the state. The Vikings were unranked entering the playoffs but took out No. 1 Parkview 3-2, 5-2 in the championship series and went 10-1 in the playoffs.

Lowndes’ Cooper Melvin was 4-for-6 with four RBI in the series, and Ashton Bohlert and CalebThornton each pitched six innings with two runs allowed in getting the wins. Noah Thigpen was 3-for-3 with a double and a pitching save in Game 2. The state title was Lowndes’ third overall, first since 2000.

North Oconee was the only repeat winner from 2022. The Titans finished 34-5 and defeated LaGrange 11-1, 5-6, 4-1 in the most closely contested championship series. North Oconee used three pitchers – Wyatt Land, Nolan Morris and Cal Strickland – to hold an early 4-0 lead in Game 3.

Loganville won its seventh title overall in Class 5A. All have been won since 2008. Loganville became the third school in history, and first since Columbus in 1991-96, to win five state titles in six seasons (not counting COVID-canceled 2020).

Harlem, a Class 3A, won its first title since 1986 but eighth overall. Harlem went 10-0 in the state playoffs. Shortstop Tryston McCladdie was 4-for-6 with a triple and a homer in the championship series.

The only other team that went through the playoffs undefeated was Prince Avenue Christian in Class A Division I. In the championship series win over Irwin County, sophomore Judson Hartwell was 4-for-7 with a double and a home run. He pitched final two innings of clinching Game 2.

Prince Avenue was one of two first-time state champions. The other was North Cobb Christian, which beat Cobb County rival Mount Paran Christian 4-2, 0-6, 11-1 in the Class 2A series. Game 3 was scoreless until the fourth inning, but North Cobb Christian scored eight runs in the fifth to trigger the run rule. The teams played five times, with North Cobb winning three.

The eighth champion was Charlton County in Class A Division I. The Indians beat ECI 3-1, 4-5, 5-0 to win its first title since 2014. Ian Vickers pitched a four-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts in Game 3.