Irish ride wave to finals

AQUINAS 12, WALKER 7

There might not be another team still playing baseball in the state of Georgia quite like this one.

 

Aquinas has deployed its catcher to win three consecutive elimination games from the mound, dressed 15 or fewer players the last two weeks and has only three seniors.

"We know we're just riding this wave as far as it can take us," coach Mike Laney said.

That wave crested again Tuesday afternoon, when the Irish sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning and held on to win their third consecutive elimination game, this time 12-7 over Marietta's Walker School. The Irish captured another Georgia High School Association Class A best-of-three series -- they have scored a combined 61 runs in the four clinching games -- by outslugging the opponent and doing just enough everywhere else. The Irish will play host to defending champion Wesleyan on Friday in the championship series. Aquinas will be seeking its first state championship.

Two of the five GHSA championship series will be held in the area, because Lakeside is playing host to the Class AAAA series.

Aquinas joined the Panthers as one of the 10 teams left in the state by jumping out to an 11-0 lead and allowing only one big inning -- a six-run third -- with catcher Bowen Klosinski starting and winning for the third consecutive time. The seven runs were the fewest the Wolverines scored in any of their nine postseason games.

The Irish finished with 13 hits, 11 of them singles. Five of the nine batters in the Irish's lineup had multiple hits, including Tyler Williamson, who banged three singles out of the No. 9 hole. Walker starter Dillon Swaggerty got just one out and allowed nine of the first 10 batters to reach base.

"Our first guy gave up three singles, two of them soft, and then got in trouble throwing strikes," Walker coach Mike Brady said. "He just struggled throwing strikes. ... You can't give someone nine runs and try to win. They didn't score much more after that."

Irish junior Sam Few (two hits) said his teammates were being disciplined enough to not chase breaking pitches out of the zone.

"We demanded fastballs," he said.

Said senior Seddrick Dixon, "We have a game plan, and we keep sticking to that game plan."

Walker did not spend the night in the area Monday after the opening doubleheader, as almost every out-of-town playoff team that comes through here does. The Wolverines walked nine batters, did not register a hit until the third inning and committed two bad errors, but were not weary of traveling, Brady said.

"It's 21 hours from home, and that had nothing to do with it," he said. "Sitting in a hotel room all day would have been more harmful for our guys."

Aquinas ace Erin Hawk pitched the final two innings, giving up only two hits. Aquinas used three pitchers in the entire series, as many as Walker used in the final game.

"That might be the only thorn they have in their side -- that they're short on pitching," Brady said. "They had to bring their No. 1 starter back after throwing 120 pitches (actually 106), and he did a great job. He's a good pitcher, I just hope that doesn't hurt his arm in the long run."

Aquinas' next opponent, a private school out of Gwinnett County, won the Class AA title in 2008.

"In a five-day period, we're going to get a chance to play against two of the best teams in Georgia," Laney said. "We get a chance to play for all the marbles at our place, and I think that's what our guys want."

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