MARIETTA -- Will Lantis’ two-run, walk-off single kept Pope’s bid for a third straight Class AAAAAA state championship alive, as the Greyhounds advanced to the second round with an 8-7 win over Creekview on Thursday.
Pope (24-6) trailed 7-0 in the fifth inning, but they put six runs on the board and held Creekview (16-11) scoreless the rest of the way to set up the series-clinching win.
“It’s awesome,” Pope coach Jeff Rowland said. “The kids never quit. They had a lot of fight. In the fifth inning, we could have laid down. Give Creekview all the credit. They showed up and played. They’re a very good team, and we’re fortunate to be moving on.”
Pope will host Dacula in a best-of-three series beginning next Thursday.
A pair of runs allowed Creekview to push its lead to 7-0 in the top of the fifth, but Pope finally got its offense going after four scoreless innings.
A single and two walks started the inning before Lantis got Pope on the board with his first RBI. Max Pralgo was hit by a pitch to score another run, and Caden Smith hit a grand slam over the left-field wall to pull within a run.
“We started feeling sorry for ourselves, I think,” Rowland said. “The kids just got in their brain we were going to fight. That was the result. We gave ourselves a chance, and that’s all you can ask.”
Still trailing by a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, Pope again loaded the bases with two outs before Lantis -- down to his final strike -- drove in Andrew Feld and Ian Hancock.
It was a sharp contrast to Creekview, which scored its runs early but left the bases loaded twice in the game.
“They had the big inning,” Creekview coach Mike Nayman said. “When you give teams a little bit of momentum and start letting them in, you have to find a way to stop it before it gets out of hand. We did what we needed to do to be successful in this series, but credit to Pope.”
With the season on the line, Creekview took control of the game early.
Calvin Haynes doubled home two runs in the first. Grant Anderson, Kyle Johnson and Griffin Potts each drove in runs in the second.
A bases-loaded walk from Gavin Grubbs -- who also threw six inning of eight-hit ball with four strikeouts -- and Joey Gill scoring on a wild pitch in the fifth pushed the lead to 7-0.
“We wanted to come out and worry about playing our game,” Nayman said. “If you’re worried about the other team, the fans, the umpires and everything else, it becomes bigger than baseball. We wanted to come out here and play some baseball. I think we did that early in this game for sure.”