Creekview made sure of that Tuesday night with an 8-4 victory over Lakeside-DeKalb in the third game of their first-round Class AAAAA state playoff series.
The Grizzlies are the only county team still playing after the eliminations of Etowah and River Ridge.
Creekview (18-11) almost made it look easy in Game 3 — a game originally scheduled for Saturday, and then Monday, only two be postponed twice because of rain.
Despite falling behind early, the Grizzles battled back. By the time they put up four runs in the top of the fourth to take a 6-3 lead, there was little doubt which team would be moving on.
Sophomore pitcher Jordan Pickerill gave up two runs in the first inning before settling down. Creekview coach Mike Nayman said he told Pickerill to give him three or four good innings and the bullpen would put it together from there, but in the end, Pickerill didn’t need much help. He threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out three.
Pickerill, who was supposed to start Saturday, said he was just ready to go.
“I just wanted to get it done,” he said. “I was just excited to be out there. I was ready to throw.”
Lakeside (18-9) pushed a run across the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Ben Carraway entered the game for the final out and induced a grounder to second.
Avery Smith was another key part of Creekview’s success. His solo shot to right-center field evened the score at 2-all in the top of the third. Two innings later, his three-run double capped the four-run fourth.
“Avery Smith was outstanding (Tuesday),” Nayman said. “He was in the right place in the right time with good swings. Production happens that way. Big players come up and big spots and do big things and he did.”
Smith locked in on the fastballs thrown by Lakeside pitchers Jack Thomas and Andrew Doetsch. Thomas, who lasted into the fourth, gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk.
Kyle Wilkie reached on an error to open the fourth and Zach Murdock, who entered to run for Wilkie, scored on a double by Austin Smith. R.J. Knecht was safe when the throw from short pulled the Lakeside first baseman off the bag, leaving two runners on with one out.
After a fly out, Doetsch entered the game and walked Steven Whitaker to load the bases before Avery Smith cleared them with his double.
“I was just going with the flow I guess,” Avery Smith said. “I was just trying to get on base.”
More timely hitting helped the Grizzlies add two more runs in the sixth.
Whitaker walked and moved to first on a groundout by Chandler Wold. The Vikings intentionally walked Avery Smith, and J.J. Echols singled to center in his only at-bat of the game to drive in both Whitaker and Smith.
“Aside from just playing to win, I’m so proud of the effort,” Nayman said. “That is probably the most complete game we have played in a while. Every swing we took seemed to be a productive swing, and every pitch we made seemed to be a productive pitch. That is what we want to see out here. At this point, everybody plays for one reason. You play to win.”
Creekview will begin its next series on short rest, traveling to Gainesville on Thursday for a doubleheader. The Red Elephants have been idle since sweeping Hiram on Friday.