A showdown for the aces in Class AAAAA

Fans in attendance at the GHSA Class AAAAA baseball championship series between Houston County and Loganville will get a chance to watch some of the best pitchers the state of Georgia has to offer.

Both teams have relied heavily on their arms to advance to this point. Loganville has scored more than six runs just one time in nine playoff games to this point, while Houston County has found a way to grit out four one-run victories.

College commitments and professional prospects litter the roster of both clubs.

Loganville head coach Jeff Segars was non-committal when asked about his pitching rotation in the series, but he elected to start Georgia signee Timothy Elliott in Game 1 of the semifinals against South Effingham. Elliott surrendered four runs in seven innings of work to pick up the complete-game victory and move his record to 6-2. He has struck out 57 hitters in 50 innings this season.

The Red Devils dropped Game 2 in the semifinals with perhaps their most talented pitcher on the mound. Mississippi State signee Mitchell Miller was touched up for 11 hits and five runs in six innings, but his ERA still sits at a minuscule 1.26. He has electric stuff, striking out 107 batters to this point.

Segars has two more capable seniors he can depend on in a third game. Ryan English, who was converted to a starter from a reliever during the season, got the call and won the decisive game against South Effingham. Drew Franklin, who had been the team’s third starter most of the season, came on late to pick up the save.

Houston County boasts equal depth.

Georgia signee Tony Locey, Florida State commitment D.L. Hall and Region 2-AAAAA pitcher of the year Tanner Hall have held opponents to four runs or fewer in nine out of 10 playoff games, and they’ve saved some of their best performances for when the Bears needed it most.

Houston County recorded 2-0 shutout victories in the region championship game against Greenbrier that secured home field advantage for most of the postseason, the decisive third game in round two of the Class AAAAA playoffs against Cambridge and the semifinal-clinching victory at Gainesville.

“I don’t say that we have an ace,” Locey said. “We have three aces that we can run out there at any time and have a ton of confidence in.”

When Houston County has found trouble during this playoff run, it has been due to those live arms losing their release point. Hit batters and walks have often been the best offense Bears opponents have been able to muster, and the Houston County coaching staff has noticed a change in philosophy with how opposing hitters are now approaching at-bats.

“Their stuff is good enough to where if they throw it, a high school hitter is going to have a tough time barreling it up two or three times in a row,” Houston County pitching coach Matt Hopkins said. “We’ve had trouble lately with some hit-by-pitches, and a lot of teams have tried to get right up on the plate thinking that they’re going to get some bases. That seems like it’s been the game plan against us. Loganville is going to have that same approach. They’re going to try to get some guys on and see if they can’t get that one big hit.”

D.L. Hall has missed most of the lead-up to this series trying to fully recover from a bout of strep throat that he pitched through against Gainesville. He is projected to be healthy and ready to go Monday.

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