POWDER SPRINGS – Hillgrove earned a spot in the state finals for the second time in team history after a doubleheader sweep of Grayson on Wednesday in the Class AAAAAAA semifinals.
With a 9-4 victory in the first game and a 4-1 win in the nightcap, the Hawks advanced to the championship series and will face either Parkview or North Gwinnett at SunTrust Park. The first two games will be Monday, with a Game 3 on Tuesday if needed.
It will be Hillgrove’s first trip to the state finals since 2011, when it lost to Parkview.
“This group of young men have invested a lot,” Hillgrove coach David Richardson said. “We don’t just show up in January and pack it up when the season is over with. Our kids work hard in the weight room, 401s and summer stuff. I’m so proud of our kids, because they’ve invested a lot. They’re a special group, especially the seniors.”
Deion Walker was 2-for-4 with two home runs, three RBIs and two runs scored to lead Hillgrove (32-8) in the opening game. Walker was also the winning pitcher, pitching the first five innings and giving up only one hit.
Cameron Fiveash was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Zack Stewart was 3-for-4.
Hillgrove put the Game 1 away with a five-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Leading 3-2, Fiveash drove in Reid Brown and Stewart to increase the Hawks' lead to 5-2. Jack Gilsenan’s single scored Fiveash, and Wade Richardson hit a two-run double to bring in Gilsenan and Ethan Wright to increase the gap to 8-2.
Walker also gave a big boost to Hillgrove with his two home runs, hitting a two-run homer to score Justin Tew in the bottom of the first to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. Walker followed with a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Hillgrove scored when Wade Richardson walked with the bases loaded to bring in Stewart and make it 3-1.
It was the Hawks' pitchers who led the way in Game 2. Austin Heard combined with Alex McKay and Fred Wilson to give up only one run on two hits.
Hillgrove scored in the top of the first inning when Wade Richardson scored on Walker’s sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.
The Hawks added two more runs in the top of the third. After loading the bases, Wright scored when Mason Curtis walked and Tew came home on a wild pitch for a 3-0 advantage.
Hillgrove got another run in the top of the fourth when Wright came home on a throwing error by Grayson pitcher Bradley Blalock.
“The kids competed for 14 innings,” David Richardson said. “We weren’t clean in Game 1, but we had a lot of big hits. Deion had some big plays. Wade had two or three big at-bats for us, and I thought we competed all day. The pitching was fantastic in Game 2. I thought Austin, Alex and Fred were really good, and we just have to eliminate a little bit of the walks and freebies going forward.
"But I can’t say enough about the guts of our kids, the resilience and fight they had. They just get after it.”