Parkview entered the state baseball playoffs ranked No. 24 nationally by Baseball America. Lowndes wasn’t even ranked in the AJC’s top 10 of Class 7A.
Why games are played was on demonstration again this week, when Lowndes finished its improbable sweep at Truist Park, home of the Braves.
Parkview, the school that developed major leagues Matt Olson and Jeff Francoeur, was a nine-time former champion that was 9-0 in state finals and 18-4 in championship-series games. The Panthers had won 11 straight games in the finals.
On top of that, this year’s Parkview team had six players signed or committed to Power 5-conference schools, according to Prepbaseballreport.com. Those include shortstop Colin Houck, a potential first-round pick who has signed with Mississippi State. (Most are returning, so don’t feel bad for Parkview.)
But it was Lowndes prevailing, winning 3-2 and 5-2.
“Obviously beating a tremendous baseball team with a lot of talent and just our kids showing up and the guts they left on the field and how they battled and competed, it’s just an awesome feeling,” Lowndes coach Ryan Page told the Valdosta Daily Times.
Page’s son, shortstop Carson Page, is Lowndes’ most high-profile player. A junior, he’s committed to Georgia Tech. He hit an RBI double in the first inning of the Game 2 clincher Wednesday. But he’s the only Power 5 Lowndes player for now.
Lowndes took control of Game 2 quickly when Cooper Melvin hit a two-run double for a 2-0 lead, and Noah Thigpen hit another RBI double in the inning that kept Lowndes ahead for good.
Caleb Thornton pitched six innings, allowing four hits and two runs. Thigpen, who is pledged to Troy, struck out two of three batters faced in the seventh for the save. Lowndes had won Game 1 on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh and final inning, breaking a 2-2 tie.
This year’s Lowndes team got below the radar in February and didn’t re-emerge until it mattered. Lowndes lost to Class 6A No. 1 Houston County 14-2 in February, the first of 12 losses overall, eight while surrendering 10 runs or more.
But the pitching steadied, and nine of the defeats were against out-of-state teams. As it often does, the rough competition proved beneficial in the playoffs, during which the Vikings went 10-1.
And Lowndes is not without its own baseball tradition. Its previous state title came in 2000, when future major leaguer Stephen Drew played shortstop for the Vikings. They lost to Parkview in the 2001 championship series, a memorable one that featured Drew and Parkview’s Francoeur. Former outfielder J.D. Drew is also a Lowndes graduate.
But this victory might stand as Lowndes baseball’s shining moment for a long time.
It also was a victory for south Georgia baseball. While several south Georgia teams in lower classifications have won baseball titles recently, Lowndes is the first south of Houston County and Columbus to win one of the three highest classifications in 20 years, or since Colquitt County in 2003.
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