McDONOUGH -- Lowndes didn't just win Saturday. They dominated.
Lowndes High hammered Henry County and its pitching, defeating the Warhawks 14-2 in six innings in the deciding game Saturday to advance to the second round of the AAAAA state playoffs. The Vikings also got strong pitching and errorless defense.
The Vikings (13-16) will travel to Newnan High Wednesday for its second-round series.
"We're starting to play good baseball," Lowndes head coach Danny Redshaw said. "That pitching depth is starting to pay off.
"Our kids turned it up, no doubt. Henry County was (2-AAAAA) region champions, we came in here a four seed, and turned it up."
"This was a big win, especially after how we've been down all season," shortstop Brandon Ponder said. "We came together and hit the ball like we were capable today. This win boosted us really well."
A team that came into the playoffs batting .237 batted .484 Saturday, pounding out 16 hits in the rout.
"We hit the ball," Redshaw said. "We had 16 hits today, six in the first game (Friday), (six) in the second game. And there weren't any cheap hits today. They were all hit hard."
"It takes a team effort. We have some good players. We don't have any superstars. We've been preaching this all year: play together, and it's kicked in the last couple of weeks. The results are on the field."
For the second time in less than 24 hours, the second inning was the big one for Lowndes. Like they did in Game 2 Friday night, the Vikings scored seven runs in the second, and the rout was on.
Shawn Riddle led off the second with a double, and took third on a groundout. Then Blake Griffin hit a chopper back to the mound, and Riddle took off. Henry pitcher Matt Clark tried the field the ball quickly and throw home, but couldn't make the play cleanly, and Riddle scored to tie the score, 2-2.
Ponder walked, then Griffin stole third. Jacob Jarvis singled just over the shortstop's head, scoring Griffin. Ponder was tagged out on the play. Then Yancey Hartman hit a ground ball into the hole. Henry shortstop Casey Loudermilk fielded the ball, but threw wide of first. Courtesy runner Gary Prine kept running, rounded third, and scored.
Then the rains came. The game was delayed around 90 minutes. The rain eventually stopped, but the floodgates remained open.
When play resumed, Blake Bonner doubled home Hartman. Will Thompson lined a single to center, and big Bonner dashed home with another run, making it 6-2. After Thompson stole second, Jim Letourneau singled up the middle, plating another run. Riddle followed with a double into the corner, scoring Letourneau. Lowndes had scored seven runs on eight hits, and held a 9-2 lead.
The rain delay hurt Henry's pitcher, but it barely fazed Lowndes starter Clay Hamm. Hamm (4-5) had given up a two-run home run to Henry star Greg Lindsey in the first, but after the delay, Hamm dominated, allowing just two singles over the next four innings. He struck out four batters, and allowed just one runner to reach third the rest of the way.
"Clay pitched a great ballgame," Redshaw said. "Our pitching was outstanding all three games. It's like I've said before, Clay's not our No. 3 starter, he's one of our three No. 1s.
"It was a long rain delay, but he just picked up where he'd left off."
In three games, Lowndes starters Hamm, Letourneau and Bowen Corbett, and relief ace Thompson, allowed Henry County just five runs.
Lowndes added to its lead in the third inning. With Copeland on second, Ponder hit a fly ball to right. Lindsey dove for the ball, but it fell just beyond his reach. Copeland scored, and Ponder wound up with a triple. Jarvis' sacrifice fly made it 10-2. Ponder made it 11-2 with a fifth-inning RBI single.
The Vikings closed out the game, and the series, in the top of the sixth. First, a balk scored Britt Jones. Then, with Thompson on second, Letourneau crushed a high fastball over the 367-foot marker in left-center for his team-leading fifth home run of the season, and a 14-2 lead.
Ponder had a huge series, going 8-for-11, driving in four runs, scoring four more, and playing flawless defense at short.
"Coach (Joe) Mederos has been telling me all season, 'Don't try to do too much at the plate. Just sit back, relax, and just swing the bat.' I just carried that to the plate with me," Ponder said.
Other Vikings also hit the ball Saturday. Letourneau was 3-for-4 with a homer, and drove in three runs. Thompson also had three hits. Riddle, Bonner and Jarvis had two hits apiece.
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