By Doug Gorman
CONYERS - For members of the Henry County High School baseball team, senior trips, family vacations and starting the summer travel ball season will have to wait just a little longer.
The Warhawks will be busy next week playing for the Class AAAA state title against Lee County in Leesburg. The best of three series starts Tuesday with a doubleheader at 4 p.m. The if game is set for Wednesday, also at 4 p.m.
Henry County advanced to the school's first ever state baseball championship series with a 6-5 victory against Heritage High School Saturday afternoon in the third and deciding game of the contest.
The series concluded six days after it was scheduled to begin as rain washed out action for four straight days.
Once the semifinals began Friday night, the two teams proved to be evenly matched as all three contests were decided by one run.
Heritage won 3-2 in eight innings in the first game, but the Warhawks evened the series in the second game by defeating the Patriots 4-3 to set up Saturday's showdown.
"I told them that 98 percent of high school athletes never get the chance to play for a state title," said Henry County coach Troy Baker. "I can't tell you how blessed I feel to be able to coach this group."
Henry County picked up nine hits and put base runners aboard in every inning but the top of the seventh en route to Saturday' victory.
Senior pitcher Greg Lindsey, the Warhawks' usual starting center fielder, got the call as the starting pitcher, and worked four solid innings before Jeremy Hardy came into the game in relief.
Hardy also pitched in relief in the Warhawks' victory Friday night.
"Greg did a great job for four innings and Hardy told me he could pitch again today," said Baker. "I would never put a kid out there and risk him getting hurt, if I didn't think he could go. He wanted to be out there and he came through for us."
The Warhawks didn't waste any time taking control of the game Lindsey helped his own cause with a lead-off single and Coleton Segars followed with a base hit.
First baseman Jason Heyward then ripped a double to score both Lindsey and Segars as the Warhawks quickly built a 2-0 lead. Heyward stole third and scored the third running of the inning on a wild pitch from Heritage starting pitcher Trent Dooley, who lasted only an inning before leaving the mound.
Heritage answered back in the bottom of the first inning with a two-run homer from Bo Hanson to cut the Warhawks lead to 3-2.
From there, Lindsey settled down and retired eight men in a row through the third inning.
"It's exciting to be going to the state finals," he said. "There are a lot of teams who are sitting home right now. I was kind of out of shape from a pitching stand point, but I told them I thought I could give them four innings. Jeremy did a great job when he came into the game."
The Warhawks' lead grew to 4-2 in the top of the fourth inning when Greg Huff lead off with a base hit. Scott Robinson moved him to second, and with two outs, freshman short stop Blake Newalu ripped an RBI single.
Henry County scored twice in the fifth inning as Segars singled and then scored on Heyward's second double of the day. Just like in the first inning, Heyward also scored on a wild pitch to give the Warhawks' a 6-2.
Heritage made one finally rally attempt in the bottom of the fifth inning as the squad scored three runs to trim the score to 6-5.
The big blow came when Hanson just missed his second homer of the day, but the ball bounced off the wall in center field, leading to one of the Patriots' three runs.
Offensively, the Warhawks were led by the first three batters in the lineup as Lindsey finished with three hits and one run scored, and Segars added two hits and scored twice.
Heywards' two doubles and two runs scored helped the Warhawks secure their bid to the championship round.