By Doug Gorman
The Henry County Warhawks hadn't played in the state tournament for two years until starting this weekend's first-round series with Lowdnes in McDonough.
The Vikings made sure the Warhawks' return to the baseball party was a short one, knocking Henry County out of the playoffs with a 14-2 victory Saturday in the third and decisive game of the series.
The game was called in the sixth by the 10-run mercy rule.
Henry County won the first game of the series 1-0 on Friday, but dropped the last two contests against the Vikings, who unleashed a flurry of offense scoring 23 runs against Henry County in the final two games.
In Saturday's series finale, the Vikings overcame a rain and lightning delay of nearly 90 minutes to put away the Warhawks, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed out of Region 2-AAAAA.
Lowdnes ripped 16 hits off of four Henry County pitchers and scored at least one run in every inning but the fourth en route to its series-clinching victory.
"I guess the rain delay might have hurt us a little bit," said Henry County head coach Chuck Campbell. "Lowdnes really hit the ball hard against us."
Every Lowdnes starter reached base at least one time against the Warahwks, but it was lead-off hitter Brandon Ponder who inflicted most of the damage for the Vikings. The short stop and Georgia Southern signee, finished with seven hits in the three-game series, including three hits Saturday. He also drove in five runs.
Ponder singled and scored the first run of the game in the first inning to give the Vikings the lead.
Henry County regained the lead in the bottom of the first, scoring twice.
Senior Lane Hammond picked up the last hit of his high school career when he popped a one-out single.Greg Lindsey then smacked his second homer of the series.
The 2-1 lead didn't hold up long.
Sandwiched in between the rain delay in the second, the Vikings batted around and scored seven runs to regain the lead for good.
Because the rain delay went more than an hour, the two teams had to get permission from the Georgia High School Association to continue to the contest.
It was granted and once play resumed, Lowndes continued to pour on the offense. The squad scored two runs in the third, one in the fifth and three in the sixth to put the game away.
Junior Michael Rozier, who picked up the win from the mound in the first game of the series, returned to first base for Saturday's game and was the only member of the Warhawks to have more than one hit.
The loss by Henry County leaves Eagles' Landing as the only Region 2-AAAAA team from the Southern Crescent still in the playoffs.
Eagle's Landing travels to Fayette County for the second round of the Class AAAAA state tournament.
Fayette County swept Effingham County in its first-round series.