LILBURN – With a trip to the Class AAAAAA baseball championship on the line, Lambert and Parkview each began one of Monday’s two Final Four contests with lead-off doubles — Jeremy Johnson doing so for the Longhorns in Game 1, Daino Deas for the Panthers in Game 2.
Of course, neither hit determined Monday’s outcome. But what followed exemplified the most significant difference between the two opponents.
With two outs in the top of the first in Game 1, a Jack Chickowski fly ball was misplayed in the outfield, allowing Johnson to score easily. Just a couple hours later, shortly after Deas reached base, he attempted to score on an errant throw to home but was tagged out at the plate due to Lambert’s awareness to back up the play.
Ultimately, Lambert made the plays they were supposed to, and Parkview didn’t, as the Longhorns swept the semifinal round, 3-1 and 4-2, punching a ticket to the title round. They’ll face Milton on Saturday, who swept Johns Creek.
“Championship teams win the games between one and two (runs),” said Lambert head coach Jamie Corr. “Today we came into a hostile place to play, very tough environment. But we came out and played very solid baseball, and we took two games. I’m very proud of the boys.”
Corr shook things up and opted to start JD Dutka in Game 1—deviating from the strategy used in the prior three rounds, in which Dylan Biumi got the ball to start the series. The decision proved to be the right one, as Dutka tossed seven strong innings, allowing just one run and six hits.
“JD got back to his old form, and it was great to see,” Corr said. “He had his head staying down, the ball staying down, and really induced a lot of good ground balls.”
Biumi got the call for Game 2 and was his usual steady self. The senior righty surrendered two runs in five innings, tallying four strikeouts. Biumi was relieved by Thomas Reddin, who struck out the only batter he faced in a lefty-lefty matchup, and Turner Scruggs, who recorded the final five outs to clinch the victory and the series.
“All four guys we threw today all did their job,” Corr added. “With Reddin coming in and getting the big lefty we needed, and Turner coming in right behind him to get the punch outs to solidify it.”
Lambert was aided by three late inning home runs, two from Tucker Maxwell and Seth Beer in Game 1 and another from Chickowski in Game 2.
Maxwell’s homer broke a 1-1 tie, and Beer’s extended the Longhorn’s lead from 2-1 to 3-1 in the top of the seventh, giving Dutka some breathing room heading into the final frame. Chickowski’s blast proved to be the difference in Game 2, as his two-run bomb over the right field fence broke a 2-2 game and gave Lambert a lead it would not relinquish.
“I just came up to the plate knowing I had to do my job,” Chickowski said. “I just got my pitch and drove it over the fence.”
The Longhorns now find themselves two wins away from the program’s first state championship.
“(We) haven’t done anything yet,” said Corr. “Just going out, playing good solid baseball. We have 26 guys in the dugout just trying to do their jobs. And if that happens, hopefully good things will come.”