GAME 2 CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES - POPE WINS STATE CHAMPIONSHIP HOUNDS SWEEP ALL FIVE PLAYOFF SERIESBy Mike Tamucci Pope’s first-year head baseball coach Chris Turco set the season expectations early. After taking over the reins of the Cobb County powerhouse program, Turco’s plan was to build upon the championship foundation already in place. Not only did the Hounds build on the foundation, they will also need to clear some extra space in the trophy room for yet another state championship trophy. Pope unleashed a furious 11-hit offensive attack with six extra base hits, and roared past Allatoona, 9-2, to capture the GHSA State Baseball Championship Thursday night at Truist Park, home of the World Series Champions, Atlanta Braves. The win completed a dominating two-game sweep for the Hounds in the best two-of-three series. Pope outscored the Buccaneers, 19-2, in the two games. The Hounds are once again state champions for the fifth time in program history. Pope swept the entire five rounds of the playoff series with a record of 10-0. The Hounds outscored and dominated their opponents in 10 playoff games by a combined score of 105-24. Pope finished the season with a record of 33-7. Allatoona’s record was 35-6, with half of the losses coming from the Hounds. Pope started the season with a record of 8-6. The Hounds finished by winning the next 25-of-26 games, including winning streaks of 14 games and a season-ending 11 games enroute to the championship. Pope has now appeared in the state finals seven times, including the past five-of-six seasons. Pope’s last championship was in 2018 in Rome, Georgia, ironically against Allatoona, in a game-three showdown. In game two, Pope’s offense was hitting the ball all over the perfectly manicured Truist Park field. Pope slugged four triples and two doubles. The Hounds also took advantage of five Allatoona errors, seven walks, and two HBP. Pope’s defense made no errors. Cooper Orr led the Hounds and reached base all four at bats. Orr went three-for-three, including a double, two singles, a walk, one stolen base, and one run scored. Kent Schmidt hit a towering triple, double, walked one time, and scored two runs. Dawson Campbell slugged a triple, single, walked once, stole one base, and scored two runs. Carson Kerce cracked one triple, one single, one RBI, stole one base, and scored one run. Cody McGill reached base three-of-four times with a triple, two walks, one RBI, and scored one run. Trey Kaiser singled, walked two times, stole one base, and scored one run. Nick Jones advanced two runs into scoring position on 4-3 ground outs. Both runners later scored. Heath Owen executed a sacrifice bunt that scored a run and also reached based by a HBP. Jack Myers stole one base. Senior right hander Jack Butler started and pitched 3.2 innings. Butler allowed one run, one walk, and struck out two. Tyler Urowsky came in relief and pitched 2.1 innings to earn his second win of the playoffs. Urowsky allowed two hits, one run, struck out two, and walked none. Kerce pitched the final inning, allowed no runs, and struck out two. Pope was the visiting team in game two. In the top of the first inning, the Hounds scored one run on two hits to take a 1-0 lead. With two outs, Kerce hit an opposite field two strike line-drive triple into the corner of the field. The ball was overthrown to third base and Kerce raced home to score the first run of the game. It was Kerce’s second Little League around the bases home run of the series. Schmidt followed with a 360-foot bomb to right field that one hopped the wall for a stand up double. McGill followed with a walk and Owen was hit by a pitch. The inning ended on a ground out with the bases loaded. In the bottom of the first, Allatoona threatened to score. With one out and runner on first and second, Allatoona tried to steal third base. Catcher Owen said to himself, “not so fast,” and threw to third baseman Schmidt, who applied the tag to nail the runner for the second out of the inning. The next batter hit a 380-foot blast to centerfield. Campbell got a good jump on the ball and ran it down to make the catch, ending the inning and keeping Allatoona off the scoreboard. In the top of the second, Pope scored another run on one hit to take a 2-0 lead. Orr led off with a first-pitch double that he ripped down the left field line to the left field wall. Jones grounded out 4-3 and moved Orr to third base. Kaiser walked. On the next pitch, Kaiser stole second base. Orr scored from third base on a balk by the Allatoona pitcher. On the balk, Campbell slugged what would have been a two-run scoring triple, but a dead ball was called. Campbell eventually walked and stole second base, but could not score. In the bottom of the second, with no outs and a runner on first, Jones chased down a hard-hit line drive sinking towards the right field line. Jones laid out in the dirt to make a nice catch and kept the runner at first. In the top of the third, Pope scored one run on one hit. Schmidt crushed a majestic 365-foot blast to right field that one bounced the 375-foot mark for a lead-off triple. All in attendance thought the ball was out of the park. With one out, Owen put down a nice sacrifice bunt towards first base to score Schmidt from third. In the bottom of the third with two outs, Allatoona had the bases loaded. With the fans on their feet and a 2-2 count, Butler struck out the hitter to hold the Buccaneers scoreless. In the top of the fourth, Pope scored three runs on four hits to gain a 6-0 lead. Orr led off with a two-strike single down the left field line and advanced to second on an error by the left fielder. Jones grounded out 4-3 and moved Orr to third base. Orr scored when the catcher threw to third trying to pick him off the base. Orr took off for home and slid safely for Pope’s fourth run. Kaiser hit a line-drive single to left field. Campbell followed and executed a perfect hit and run. Kaiser stole second base. The shortstop went to cover the base and Campbell hit a grounder in the vacated shortstop position for a single. Kaiser advanced to third. Kerce singled up the middle to score Kaiser. Campbell advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Kerce stole second base. McGill walked to load the bases. Campbell scored from third on a wild pitch. In the bottom of the fourth, Allatoona had the bases loaded again. With two outs, Urowsky entered the game in relief to face the Buccaneers clean-up hitter and Georgia Tech signee. With a 1-1 count, the batter hit a hard ground ball to Kerce at shortstop deep in the hole and at the outfield grass. Kerce backhanded the ball, planted his foot, and threw a one-hop strike to McGill at first base. McGill snagged the ball and recorded the pressure-packed out to end the inning. Kerce is also committed to Georgia Tech and robbed his future teammate of a big hit. In the top of the sixth, Pope sent eight batters to the plate and scored three final runs on two hits. Campbell led off with a two strike, 335-foot blast off the right field wall for a stand-up triple. Campbell scored on a wild pitch. With one out, Schmidt walked. McGill blasted a triple over the center fielder’s head that bounced to the wall to score Schmidt from first base. With two outs, Myers hit a ball through the third baseman’s legs and scored McGill for the Hounds final run of the game and season.
GAME 1 CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES - POPE RUN RULES ALLATOONA IN GAME ONE OF FINALS CAMPBELL SPINS A SHUTOUT By Mike Tamucci It did not take long for Pope senior lefthander Dawson Campbell to settle into what became for him and his Pope teammates the friendly confines of 41,084 seat Truist Park. The starting pitcher for the Hounds threw a strike on the first pitch of the game as if he were back at Jeff Rowland Field. Campbell went on to strike out the side in the first inning and pitch a complete game shutout to lead the Hounds to a 10-0 run-rule rout over region rival and runner up, Allatoona, in game one of the all-Cobb County GHSA State Baseball Championship best twoof-three series. Pope’s record improved to 32-7 and Allatoona’s fell to 35-5. Campbell struck out eight, scattered three hits, and walked just one batter. He ended the game with two straight strike outs to bring the Hounds within one game of a championship. It was Campbell’s fifth-straight playoff-opening win for Pope. Campbell threw 86 pitches with 58 strikes (67%). He retired the side in order in three-of-six innings, including the last seven batters of the game. Pope broke out the big bats and erupted for 11 hits in the final four innings, including triples by junior sluggers Carson Kerce and Kent Schmidt. Every Pope hitter in the lineup reached base by either a hit or a walk. The Hounds roughed up four Allatoona pitchers, who gave up nine earned runs, gave up six walks, had one HBP, and threw 124 pitches and 70 strikes (57%). Kerce paced the Hounds with his triple, a double, two RBI, one stolen base, and two runs scored. Campbell helped his own cause and reached base three-of-four times with two singles, one walk, two RBI, and one stolen base. Jack Myers had two singles, and both knocked in a run. Heath Owen slugged two hits. In addition to his triple, Schmidt walked and scored two runs. Cody McGill reached base three-of-four times with a single, walk, HBP, scored two runs, and stole one base. Cooper Orr had a single, one walk, one run scored, and one stolen base. Trey Kaiser and Nick Jones both walked one time, and both scored one run. In the bottom of the third inning, Pope batted around the order, sent 11 batters to the plate, and scored five runs on five hits to take a 5-0 lead. All the runs were scored with two outs. Orr led off with a two-strike line-drive single up the middle that nicked off the pitcher’s glove into center field. Orr stole second base. With two outs, Campbell hit a two-strike line-drive single over the shortstop’s head into left field and scored Orr from second with the game’s first run. Blythe Keisler ran for Campbell. Kerce blasted a line-drive triple in the right center gap to the wall and scored Keisler all the way from first base. On the same play, while standing at third base, the pitcher turned his back to the plate while holding the ball. Time was not called. The next hitter, Schmidt, motioned Kerce to run home. Kerce took off and slid safely to steal home and complete the Little League home run. Schmidt followed and walked on four pitches. McGill walked on a 3-1 count. Owen hit a line-drive single to center to load the bases. Myers followed with a line-drive single to center field that scored Schmidt. McGill scored Pope’s fifth and final run of the inning on a balk. In the bottom of the fourth, Pope scored three more runs on two extra base hits to take an 8-0 lead. Kaiser led off with a walk on four pitches. With one out, Kerce slugged a line-drive double to center field and scored Kaiser from first. Schmidt followed with a line-drive shot past the right fielder for a triple that scored Kerce. The outfield throw was to third base. The ball was knocked down by the Allatoona fielder but bounced away. Schmidt realized the ball could not be immediately located. He sprinted for home and scored sliding onto home plate. Schmidt took a little extra time to sit on the plate with a grin on his face and savor the moment. Schmidt’s run around the bases completed the Hounds second Little League home run of the game. In the bottom of the fifth, Pope scored one run on one hit. With one out, Jones walked on a full count. Jones advanced to second on a passed ball and moved to third on a 6-3 ground out. Campbell pulled a fastball past the second baseman into right field that scored Jones. In the bottom of the sixth, Pope scored one last run on three hits and ended the game early by run rule. With one out, McGill hit an opposite field single over the shortstop into left field. Owen hit a hard line drive off the third baseman for a single. Myers hit a game ending opposite field line-drive single down the right field line and put a wrap on the Hounds 10-0 victory. Pope’s defense played flawlessly and made no errors. In the top of the second, left fielder Kaiser sprinted to his left and tracked down a well-hit line drive in the gap. Kaiser dove and fully extended to catch the ball for the first out of the inning. In the top of the third with two outs and runners on first and second, third baseman Schmidt caught a short hop on his glove side, squared up, threw to first base, and McGill scooped the one hopper for the out. In the top of the fifth, after an infield single, Pope turned a sharp 6-4-3 double play (Kerce to Orr to McGill) to clear the bases. In the top of the sixth, right fielder Jones sprinted towards the right field line, dropped to a knee, and caught the slicing line drive while sliding in the dirt for the out.