Top 5 Pierce County had little trouble in disposing of visiting Thomson in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament.
The Region 1 champion Bears (24-5), ranked second by MaxPreps and fourth by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, rolled to a pair of five-inning, double-digit wins over the over matched Region 4 fourth-seed Bulldogs (9-16), ranked 38th by MaxPreps, to extend their season-best winning streak to eight games.
Pierce County put together two seven-game winning streaks during the season.
PCHS posted a 12-0 victory in Game 1 on a combined no-hitter by Jayden Crews and Cole Royer losing a perfect game with a one-out error in the fifth.
Knox Bennett hit two homers and drove in four runs and Crews blasted a two-run homer in a 15-3 victory in the nightcap.
Pierce County faced Region 2 third-seed Upson-Lee (17-9), winners of six straight, in the second round with a doubleheader Tuesday, May 4 (4:30 p.m., 7 p.m.) with the “if” game Wednesday.
The Knights, ranked 16th by MaxPreps, swept Region 3 runner-up Liberty County with scores of 16-0 and 8-2. Upson-Lee has scored 10 or more runs 13 times during the season and is averaging 8.7 runs per game. During the Knights’ current winning streak, they have outscored their opponents 62-8.
Region 1 dominated its Region 4 opposition winning three of the four series.
Region runner-up Appling County (13-12), ranked No. 9 by MaxPreps, swept third-seed Burke County (19-10) winning 13-0 and 6-5. The Pirates travel to Region 3 champion Southeast Bulloch in the second round.
Third-seed Long County (15-12), ranked 11th by MaxPreps, upset second-seed Morgan County (20-12) winning 7-6 and 9-7. The Blue Tide travel to Region 2 champion Pike County (18-10), ranked 10th by the AJC and 14th by MaxPreps, in the second round.
Fourth-seed Tattnall County (10-17) fell 7-0 and 1-0 to region champion Harlem (26-5), ranked sixth by the AJC and eighth by MaxPreps.
No. 2 Bears 12
No. 38 Thomson 0
Pierce County scored in each of its four at bats putting the series opener away with a six-run third to back the pitching of Crews and Royer.
Crews worked three perfect innings fanning four of the nine batters he faced while throwing 32 pitches. Royer retired six of seven batters with three strikeouts needing just 19 pitches.
PCHS capitalized on the first of four Bulldog errors with a run in the opening inning. Davis Green (2-for-2) was hit by the second pitch of the frame. After stealing second, he moved to third on a one-out wild pitch and scored when Drew Starling’s grounder to third was airmailed over first.
The Bears pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second inning with another lead off hit batter setting things up.
JReid Phillips (2-for-2) was drilled by the first offering. After a fielder’s choice ground out and a line out, Brandon Pittman (2-for-2) kept the inning alive with a walk.
After fouling off consecutive 3-2 pitches, Green ripped a run-scoring double plating Jarrell’s courtesy runner, Mason Woodcock. Hoke Skipper (2-for-3) dropped down a first-pitch, bunt single loading the bases with Bennett (2-for-3) following with a high-chopping infield hit plating Pittman with the second run.
PCHS sent 11 batters to the plate during the six-run third inning in opening up a 9-0 advantage. Starling’s first-pitch leadoff fly ball to left was played into a two-base error. Crews singled two pitches later hustling into second on throw back to the infield.
Phillips drilled the next offering for a run-scoring single putting runners on the corners. Collin Jarrell’s (1-for-2) sacrifice fly to left plated Crews for a 5-0 lead. Brett Tuten (2-for-3) singled on an 0-2 pitch and Pittman reached when his sacrifice bunt was thrown away scoring Phillips.
Green, Skipper and Bennett followed with consecutive RBI singles in a six-pitch sequence as the lead swelled to 9-0. Thomson turned an inning-ending 5-2-3 double play after Starling was hit to load the bases.
The Bears pushed home three runs in the fourth on consecutive run-scoring singles by Jarrell and Tuten and a sacrifice fly by Skipper.
No. 2 Bears 15
No. 38 Thomson 3
PCHS scored four runs in each of the first three innings in coasting to the victory in the nightcap.
Two-run homers by Bennett (2-for-2) and Crews (2-for-3) jump started the Bears’ attack in the top of the first inning.
Skipper (3-for-3) legged out a one-out, infield hit and was removed for courtesy runner Woodcock. Bennett, after fouling off three consecutive pitches, launched an 0-2 offering to left-center for his first career homer and a quick 2-0 lead.
Starling (2-for-2) followed with a single to left with Crews blasting a 1-0 pitch to left-center for his first career homer and a 4-0 advantage.
PCHS stretched the margin out to 8-0 in the second inning. Back-to-back doubles by Tuten (2-for-3) and Pittman (1-for-2) to start the frame upped the lead 5-0. Skipper’s (3-for-3) run-scoring double one out later was followed by Bennett’s first-pitch homer to left.
Pierce County loaded the bases before the final out was recorded on a one-out double by Starling, a two-out walk to Phillips and Jarrell getting hit by a pitch.
Thomson ended its scoring drought in the bottom of the second, the first of three consecutive one-run innings against Skipper, Tuten and Phillips. Skipper issued consecutive one-out walks surrendering the run on a two-out single off an 0-2 pitch.
The Bears pushed the lead out to 12-1 in the third inning scoring on a bases loaded walk, a two-run double and a sacrifice fly.
Green singled with one out and raced to third on Skipper’s first-pitch double. Bennett drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Starling followed with a five-pitch walk forcing home the first run of the inning.
Crews (2-for-3) ripped a two-run double two pitches later with Phillips following with a sacrifice fly.
The Bulldogs got a lead off single against Tuten with a one-out double driving home the run in the bottom of the inning cutting the lead to 12-2.
PCHS dented the plate three times in the fourth in building a 15-2 advantage. Tuten opened with a double and Royer, in a pinch-hitting role, was hit by a pitch. Pinch-hitter Zach Murphy’s fly ball to left was booted for a three-base error scoring Tuten and Royer.
After a walk to pinch-hitter Ashby Simonin, Woodcock lofted a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to center plating the final run.
Thomson’s last run came on a bases loaded hit batter by Phillips. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with the hit batter following. Phillips settled down to strike out the next three Thomson batters to limit the damage.
Bennett recorded the rarity with four strikeouts in the bottom of the fifth on 16 pitches. The lead off batter reached on a dropped third strike passed ball.