AAAAAA baseball: Walton sweeps Pope

High School BaseballJason Avers drove in two runs with a walkoff, one-out single in the bottom of the seventh to give Walton a 5-4 victory over Pope and a two-game sweep of the best-of-three Class AAAAAA baseball championship series Saturday at Pope.

Avers hit the first pitch off reliever Josh Lowe into left field, bringing home Parker McCoy and Carter KIeboom with the tying and winning runs. McCoy opened the inning with a walk, and Kieboom reached with a one-out, ground-rule double. Pope intentionally walked Jason Rooks and brought in the Florida State-bound Lowe to face Avers.

In the first game, Rooks went 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs in the Raiders’ 11-1 victory.

“We knew it was going to be a battle in the second game,” Walton coach Shane Amos said. “We knew they weren’t going to give in or give up. Our kids responded there at the end. The guys coming up were all seniors, but the junior got the game-winning hit on a walkoff, so that’s fantastic.”

The victory gave Walton its third state championship in program history. The series matched two Region 5-AAAAAA and Cobb County rivals that are located about four miles apart and both ranked in the top 25 of various national polls. They split two regular-season meetings, but Pope finished as the region champion and Walton was the runner-up.

Pope had taken a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh inning of the back-and-forth Game 2 when Antonio Jareno drove in Mason Meadows with a sacrifice fly.

Meadows gave the Greyhounds a 1-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI single. Walton answered with two runs in the third inning before Pope regained the lead 3-2 in the fifth. Pinch runner Addison Shoup scored the tying run in the sixth on a wild pitch, one of two runs the Raiders scored on wild pitches.

Walton broke open the first game with a six-run seventh inning, highlighted by Rooks’ towering grand slam high into the trees beyond left-center. He had a solo homer in the fourth inning for a 5-1 lead.

Walton took advantage of five hits, three walks and two hit batters in the first two innings to build a 4-0 lead. Drake Frix, Avers and Michael Guldberg each had RBI singles, and Kieboom drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. McCoy was hit by pitches four times in the game. Walton pitcher Zac Kristofak got the complete-game victory, allowing six hits while walking four, hitting one batter and striking out five.

Guldberg finished with four hits, the most of any Walton player. Kieboom and Rooks each went 3-for-8.

Pope got most of its offensive production from the 5-6-7 spots in the lineup, with Ethan Lawson, Jake Pralgo and Jareno combining for 10 hits in 18 at-bats for the day.

Walton previously won state titles in 1992 and 2007. The Raiders were runners-up to Parkview last season.

“It’s been 365 days that I’ve thought about it,” Amos said. “Hats off to these guys for just coming out here and playing their hearts out. It’s been a goal since last year. We had a goal to win two more, and we got those two more today.”

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