Three sitting champions will arrive at CoolRay Field with hopes of defending last year’s championship as the Class 6A, Class 5A and Class 4A seasons come to an end Thursday, Friday, Saturday and possibly Monday if a deciding game 3 is forced in the Class 5A championship.
IT’S NICE BEING ON TOP
Pope (6A), Loganville (5A) and North Oconee (4A) are each trying to defend while Houston County (6A), McIntosh (5A) and LaGrange (4A) will try to upend the sitting champions. Of the six programs trekking to CoolRay Field, McIntosh is the only one trying for the team’s first-ever championship.
A LONG PATH TO THE TITLE
In Class 6A, Pope and Houston County will play the opening double-header beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday after a tumultuous run through the bracket. Pope – which won titles in 2009, 2013, 2017, 2018 and last season – entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed from Region 7 and weathered a three-game series against Apalachee in the first round. The Greyhounds lost 6-4 in the first game then won 18-2 and 12-2 to advance. Against Woodstock in the second round, Pope again lost the opening game 3-1 and then won 3-2, 5-2 to earn a quarterfinals berth. Against Tift, Pope won 10-2, 5-1 to earn the semifinals berth where it beat River Ridge 10-4, 15-3 to earn the championship berth. Houston County – which won championships in 2014, 2016 and 2021 and entered the bracket as the No. 1 seed from Region 1 – carved a path to the finals through Brunswick 13-1, 11-4 in the first round. Against Marist in the second round, the Bears won the first game 8-3 and lost the second 7-3 before rallying for a 17-7 victory in the deciding Game 3. The Bears weathered another three-game series in the quarterfinals and after losing to Blessed Trinity 5-3 in the first game, Houston County won 4-2, 6-1 to advance. In the semifinals, the Bears beat Etowah 6-5, 4-1 to earn the championship berth.
THE CHIEFS JUST WANT ONE
In Class 5A McIntosh is trying for the team’s first title, and six-time title winner and the defending champions Loganville stand in the Chiefs’ way. The teams will begin the double-header series at 5 p.m. Saturday. Loganville – which won titles in 2008, 2012, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022 – entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed from Region 8 and beat Dalton 11-1, 11-4 and Chapel Hill 5-1, 12-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. Against Locust Grove in the quarters, the Red Devils lost the opening game 6-3 before winning 5-0, 3-2 to earn their semifinals berth. In the semis, Loganville defeated Greenbrier 12-5, 7-4 to advance to the championship series. McIntosh entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed from Region 3 and beat Arabia Mountain 19-0, 20-0 in the first round and Ola 2-1, 6-3 to earn a quarterfinals berth. Against Winder-Barrow in the quarterfinals, the Chiefs won the opening game 10-0 but lost 3-0 in the second game to force a Game 3 where it won 5-2. In the semifinals, the Chiefs faced another three-game series after losing to Centennial 13-0 in the first game. The Chiefs rallied and won 15-9, 9-3 to earn its berth in the championship series.
In Class 4A, LaGrange will face North Oconee in the double-header series beginning at 5 p.m. Friday after neither program was forced to a decisive Game 3 throughout their bracket runs. LaGrange, which won its only championship in 2004, entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed from Region 4. The Grangers opened the tournament beating Burke County 10-2, 14-1 and then Shaw 11-5, 13-1. In the quarterfinals, LaGrange outlasted East Forsyth 3-2, 9-1 to earn its semifinals berth. In the semis, the Grangers defeated Lovett 4-3, 3-2 to earn a berth in the championship series. North Oconee won its first state title last season and after entering the bracket as the No. 1 seed from Region 8, the Titans have been formidable. North Oconee defeated Central-Carroll 13-2, 12-0 in the first round and Pace Academy 14-3, 11-7 to advance to the quarterfinals. Against Whitewater in the quarters, North Oconee won 14-5, 9-3 to earn the semifinals berth. Against Starr’s Mill in the semis, the Titans won 15-5, 4-1 to advance to the championship series.
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