CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — For a Gordon Lee high school baseball series against Charlton County, Friday's GHSA Class A public school quarterfinal doubleheader was extremely drama-free.
And that's perfectly fine with Mike Dunfee.
Dunfee's Trojans swept the Indians, 9-0 and then 4-1 with three runs in the sixth inning. Each of these teams' previous three playoff meetings, including in last year's Gordon Lee semifinal series win, went to a deciding game three.
The big story Friday was another dominating day on the mound for the Trojans. Caleb Hopkins pitched a complete-game three-hitter with nine strikeouts in game one, and Mason Pettigrew and Jake Wright combined on a one-hitter in game two. That followed two shutout wins in the last round by a pair of pitchers, Austin Thompson and Jake Poindexter, who did not climb the mound Friday as Dunfee elected to go with fresher arms.
Gordon Lee (24-8), the No. 4 overall seed, will host the semifinal series next Wednesday against Bowdon, which upset No. 2 seed and defending state champion Schley County on Friday.
"The awesome thing about this pitching staff is, most coaches rank their guys one, two, three, but on this team we have a staff," Dunfee said. "There are eight guys we feel comfortable putting out there. Just look at what Hop did in game one. That was outstanding, and after Mason cramped up a bit in game two, we went to Jake Wright, who was the next-freshest guy we had, and after a bit of a struggle early he settled in and shut them down.
"It was big for us to be able to save Thompson and Poindexter with this short turnaround. We felt good about it, though, and if any team is suited to handle this it's us."
Left-hander Hopkins, who hadn't pitched in three weeks, allowed only two runners to reach scoring position and faced just four batters over the minimum.
"Once I learned we were playing them I studied a ton of video and saw they didn't like slow stuff and wanted to sit on fastballs," Hopkins said. "I felt good, and it was great to get all those runs."
Three of the nine runs came off his own bat, courtesy of a third-inning two-run homer and an RBI groundout in the sixth. The Trojans had scored two runs in the first inning to set the pace, with hot-hitting catcher Chris Potter plating two with a two-out single.
J.D. Day and Hunter Hodson had two hits each in the first game, and eight of the nine Gordon Lee batters get at least one hit.
The going was tougher in game two as Charlton started its ace, Jack Gowen. Potter, though, reached him for a leadoff double in the second inning and scored two batters later on Will Sizemore's single. The Indians tied it in the third against Pettigrew on Connor Nelson's double and Trevor Knowles' RBI groundout.
Wright, who came on to start the fourth, got in trouble right away — loading the bases with two outs on a hit batter and a pair of walks. However, he got Nelson to ground out back to the mound to end the threat and allowed only a sixth-inning walk the rest of the way.
The good work was rewarded in the sixth when the Trojans broke it open against Gowen. Hodson led off with a solid single to right field and ended up at third base after an outfield error and an interference call as he collided with Nelson rounding first. Following a walk to Dylan Minghini, Hopkins singled in the go-ahead run.
Day was intentionally walked with one out to load the bases, but Sizemore spoiled the strategy with a two-run double to provide needed insurance.
"It was fun to see our guys step up to the challenge," Dunfee said. "We knew this second game was going to be close. It goes back to pitchers pounding the zone, making plays defensively and timely hitting. When they walked J.D. there and Will Sizemore came up with that big hit, that was something, and it couldn't happen to a better kid."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports22