By Doug Gorman
Four more wins. That's all that separates the Henry County Warhawks baseball team from capturing the Class AAAA state title.
As good as Henry County has been over the years, this would be the school's first ever state title in baseball.
The quest resumes today as Henry County opens the best-of-three semifinal series on the road against Heritage. The two teams will play a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m . A third game would be played Tuesday at 5 p.m., if needed.
Playoff games on the road are nothing new for the Warhawks. The first three playoff series have also been on the road, with the Warhawks winning each series a sweep.
Henry County opened the playoffs with a sweep at Bainbridge, then won two straight games at Statesboro. The most dramatic series game last week as the Warhawks traveled to No.-4 ranked Marist, and also came away with two straight wins.
In its second game at Marist, the Warhawks came up with one the most dramatic win of the year.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Warhawks loaded the bases and then turned to freshman Blake Newalu for some two-out, last-inning heroics.
After working the count full, and fouling off several pitches, the Warhawks' short stop cleared the bases with a game-winning double.
Until delivering the base hit to send the Warhawks into the Class AAAA Final Four, Newalu had been in a playoff slump.
"We have a different guy capable of stepping it up each game," said Henry County head coach Troy Baker. "It was a great job of hitting by the freshman."
Pitching staff excels: Despite playing all six playoff games on the road, the Henry County pitching staff hasn't missed a beat. The Warhawks are 6-0 in the playoffs with Matt Clark, winning three games. Jason Heyward, Austin Peacock and Jeremy Hardy once. Hardy also has two saves.
"This is a team effort all around," said Heyward. "When it's my turn to pitch, I know it's my job to go in there and throw strikes."
Playing long ball: The Warhawks have hit four home runs in the playoffs with Scott Robinson hitting two, and Greg Lindsey and Matt Clark hitting one each.
About Heritage: Like the Warhawks, Heritage is also 6-0 in the playoffs. Heritage opened its playoff run with a victory against North Forsyth. They beat North Atlanta in round No.-2 and Thomas County Central last week.
Earlier in the year, Heritage beat Marist too.
ELCA ties too: Henry County coach Troy Baker has plenty of reason to be proud of what Eagle's Landing Christian Academy as accomplished on the baseball field this year too. Baker is an ELCA graduate.
Like Henry County, ELCA is in the state final four. The Chargers, who are in their first year as a member of the Georgia High School Association, play Mt. Paran in the Class A tournament.
Henry County beat ELCA in game during the regular season, but Baker came away with plenty of respect for the Chargers.
"I don't know a whole lot of people at ELCA, but (head coach) Joe Shadowens is a class act, and they have done a great job."
Baker said there's no doubt that some of the best high school baseball is played in Henry County.
"Vic Gongola did a great job at Union Grove, Andy (Cooper) had a great season at Luella, and Toby had his team playing good baseball at Eagle's Landing. Stockbidge was involved in some close games this year.
There's no doubt how good baseball is in Henry County."