Ross Funke tries to get a bunt down to advance the runner. HATCHER HURD/Staff. (click for larger version)
April 23, 2014JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – After winning back-to-back region baseball titles in 2012 and 2013, the Johns Creek Gladiators will have to settle for second place in Region 6-AAAAAA this season.
The Gladiators had a chance to pull even in the region standings last week, but lost 3-2 to undefeated Lambert, the state's top-ranked team in AAAAAA.
Johns Creek led 2-1 going to the seventh inning, but the Longhorns spoiled an outstanding pitching effort by Johns Creek's Gabe Moore.
Moore, a Kentucky signee, took a three-hitter and a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning, but yielded a two-run homer after hitting a batter.
Lambert is 11-0 in the region and 23-0 overall, with the Gladiators 9-2 and 13-9 after a 6-0 victory Saturday over South Forsyth. Tyler Prescott, who will play in college at Presbyterian, shut out South Forsyth on four hits over six innings and led the Johns Creek offense with three hits and two runs batted in.
The Gladiators have featured a strong pitching staff led by the senior trio of Moore, Prescott and Charlie Hecht, who has signed with Georgia College.
Moore is 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA, striking out 42 batters in 36 innings. Prescott is 3-2 with a 1.37 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 37 innings, with Hecht 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA. The Gladiators' team ERA is just over 2.00.
Offensively, Johns Creek is averaging a modest five runs per game, with junior Tyler Dupree leading the team with a .415 batting average and 13 RBI. Senior Bradley Flink is next at .364 and leads the team in runs scored with 13.
Noah Wilmot (.327) and Ross Funke (.314) are the Gladiators' only other .300 hitters, but five senior starters are batting between .273 and .296, including catcher Cody Hardage, a Clemson signee who went 3-for-3 in the loss to Lambert.
Chase Solomon, Austin Wedding, C.J. Edmond and Prescott are all within range of .300, as is Hardage.
The Gladiators' senior class will be competing in the playoffs for the third straight season, with Johns Creek advancing to the state semifinals in 2012. In the team's first season at the AAAAAA level last year, Johns Creek won a region title, but the recent loss to Lambert will deny the Gladiators a third straight region crown.
This is the final week of the regular season, with the Gladiators beginning the state playoffs at home next. Johns Creek, coached by Billy Nicholson, will face the No. 3 team from Region 8-AAAAAA.
In other action, Chattahoochee came into the final week of the regular season in third place in the region at 5-5. The Cougars had four games scheduled this week, one each against Lambert and Johns Creek, as well as games against two of the other three teams contending for the final two playoff spots from the region.
Northview was also in contention for a playoff spot going to the final week of the regular season in 7-AAAAA, but the Titans needed a successful showing to reach the state tournament.
The Titans were 9-7 in the region and 13-9 overall, and are among a large group of teams still in the running for the playoffs from the region.