The Valdosta Daily Times
Lowndes’ Danny Redshaw has a lot of confidence in his starting pitching this postseason.
The head coach of the Vikings, Redshaw’s confidence is understood after what Cory Pope and Logan Hutchinson have been able to do through the first two rounds of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
"Pitching and defense wins championships,” Redshaw said. “And that certainly has been our mantra this season. Pope, Hutchinson and the rest of our pitching staff, they have been outstanding. We would not be where we are today without those guys.”
Tonight, Redshaw will need his starting pitching to be just as dominant as it has been through the first two rounds, as the Vikings (21-9) host Roswell (20-10) in the state quarterfinals at Noel George Field.
The teams will play a doubleheader today, with game one starting at 4:30 p.m. and two at 7 p.m. The teams will play an “If necessary” game Wednesday, if they split today.
The Vikings are hoping there is no split today, though, just like the first two rounds. And they hope the pitching is just as good, too.
Pope, the left-handed junior, has thrown back-to-back complete game shutouts. Hutchinson has allowed just three earned runs, while striking out 17, in 13 1/3 innings pitched this postseason.
While the pitching has been good, the Viking bats have struggled at times this postseason, especially when Pope has been on the hill.
Through his two postseason starts, Pope has received just five combined hits and three total runs from his offense, something Redshaw knows will have to change today if the Vikings want to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2006.
“We talk about it all the time, but usually when Pope is on the mound, he is our No. 1, we face the other team’s No. 1 and he is usually good too,” Redshaw said. “So we talk about it all the time. Nobody is freaking out but we need to score some runs.”
While Lowndes has good pitching, so does Roswell. Syd Hopkins, an All-Region First Team selection, and Connor Johnstone, the Region 5 pitcher of the Year, lead the Hornets on the hill.
Both have already signed with Division I programs. Hopkins has signed with Georgia Tech and is ranked as the 22nd best high school prospect in the state, while Johnstone has signed with Wake Forest and held a 1.97 earned run average throughout the regular season.
“They are D1 guys,” Redshaw said. “The Johnstone guy is around 90, signed around Wake Forest and has three pitches. He knows how to pitch. It is a tough region they play in up there in Cobb County — Region 5. It is going to be challenge.”
Along with Hopkins, outfielder Adam Terrinoni, shortstop Matt Meeder, catcher Drew Davis and designated hitter Alex Dickerson were all named to the Region 5 First Team.
After finishing third in Region 5 this regular season, the Hornets beat Grayson in three games (1-8, 9-6, 6-4) in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. Then in the second round, the Hornets went on the road and beat state-ranked Mill Creek (7-6, 0-8, 11-6) to clinch a trip to the state quarterfinals.
“They struggled early, but they are playing really well right now,” Redshaw said. “It doesn’t matter if we played in New Mexico, whatever team plays better will win….They’re well coached and I expect them to play hard. They will play will class.”
Lowndes swept Hillgrove (1-0, 5-3) and Alcovy (2-0, 8-1) in the first two rounds of the state playoffs.
Both Lowndes and Roswell have won a pair of state championships. Roswell won back-to-back state championships in 1970-71, while Lowndes won its to two state championships in 1981 and 2000.
The Vikings were state runner-ups in 2001, losing in a three-game series to Parkview. The Vikings last appeared in the state quarterfinals in 2007, where they lost to Kennesaw Mountain in two games.