WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Its two in a row for the Peachtree Academy Panthers baseball team as it claimed its second straight Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association Division II-A State Championship Friday night with a two-game sweep of Cherokee Christian, 8-5 and 5-1.
In game one of the best-of-three state championship series in Woodstock, Peachtree Academy snagged a late lead to take down the Warriors. The Panthers were down 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning when they scored on a stolen base during Jacob Shott's at bat. Then Shott doubled, driving in one.
The Panthers earned the game one victory despite allowing Cherokee Christian to score three runs in the third inning. Cherokee Christian’s big bats were led by Wyatt Strahl, Jacob Meder and Noah Goss who each had RBIs in the inning.
Garrett Payton led the Panthers to victory on the mound, surrendered five runs on seven hits over six-and-one-third innings while striking out seven. Grayson Hopkins threw two-thirds of an inning in relief out of the bullpen for the save.
The Panthers tallied 12 hits total on the day. Hunter Payne, Payton, Shott, and Ammand Dewberry all recorded multiple hits for the Panthers. Payne led Peachtree with three hits in three at bats.
"It was a hard fought game.” said Peachtree Academy head coach Skip Argo. “We allowed them to get on the board in the third, but there was no panic from our guys. As we have since we started this 15-1 run, we just play our game, work the count and take care of our business. I was very proud of our resilience. Our pitchers settled down and kept the game in check. It wasn't our cleanest game in the field, but our bats did the job.”
In the second game of the night, the Panthers jumped on the Warriors in the first inning. Playing as the home team, Hunter Payne took the first pitch he saw and lined a run-scoring single into left center. It signaled a lead the Panthers would never relinquish nor be fully tested.
The Panthers extended their lead, as they tallied four runs in the second inning. The offensive firepower was led by Dakota Boeckman, Walker Payton, Garrett Payton and Parker Wyatt, with all four driving in runs.
Walker Payton led the Panthers on the mound, going three innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out six while walking only one. He was relieved by Grayson Hopkins who threw four innings of shutout baseball, allowing only one hit, walking one and striking out seven, including the side in the seventh inning.
The Panthers collected 11 hits on the day. Hopkins, Chaz Gothard, Boeckman, and Ammand Dewberry each had two hits to lead the Panthers, leading to a gratifying championship-clinching victory.
"We worked hard all year to reach this point,” Argo said. "Praise for the preparation of this team should go to this staff. Assistant head coach Jeff Hopkins, pitching coach Kevin Boeckman, hitting and game prep coach Gary Payton, outfield and dugout coach Ryan Wyatt, along with hitting and assistant coach Jasper Hill.
"These men had the team prepared and ready to go. They worked them all season to be the best they could be. Our team was prepared to win this state title.”
Argo gave particular praise to the Peachtree fans who traveled well to watch the Panthers claim back-to-back titles, and lauded the experience more than the hardware as the true unforgettable takeaway from his team’s accomplishment.
"We had a great fan base travel to Woodstock to watch the games. It was like a home game for us.”he said. “The support from our school and fans has been unbelievable. Baseball seasons come and go. The point isn't the wins and loses. It's not the championship itself, but the collective success the team, these boys have had together, working hard to attain something very few attain. These moments, this connection, they will carry with themselves forever.
"All a coach can ask of his players is to honor God in every action on and off the field. Win or lose, that is all we can ask of them.”