The Pirates stayed strong and united and finished the goal they were fighting for, earning the 2022 Georgia High School Association State Championship title at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. The Pirates defeated the Redan Raiders in a thrilling 5-4 victory in the final game of the series on May 24.
“Our strength was the love that these players have for each other. These guys would do anything for each other. I believe that their resiliency and never say die attitude is a major factor in our success,” said Pirates head coach Don Hanson.
“The outpouring of support from our fans and community has been huge. There is no doubt that they played an integral part in our success, especially being blessed with the opportunity to host every round at home with the exception of the championship series which was played at Coolray Field.”
The ‘10th man’ – all the Pirates Nation fans – supported the Pirates during their home playoff games with the loudest student section around and they also saw the team off before the championship series, had a great showing in Lawrenceville and welcomed them home with great fanfare at ‘The Jack,’ Jack Pilkenton field as champions.
“We make great efforts to instill in them how important it is to have pride in your school and its athletic programs. The coaches, players, staff and students have always had a great sense of pride in our school and athletics. They made no exception when it came to baseball. The fan base began to grow every round of the GHSA State Playoffs,” said Hanson. “Our staff gets along really well and works well together. As a head coach, I believe that I should let my assistant coaches use the strengths that they bring to the table. I want them to work with these young men and bring out the best in them. This is not a one-man show and it never will be if it is going to remain a successful program. Naturally, there are decisions that I must make for the best interest of the program that doesn’t always get rave reviews, but that is the job of the head coach. Sometimes you look like a genius and sometimes you look like an idiot. I always consult with my guys on everything, because I have that much respect for them and their opinions.”
The 2022 Georgia High School Association State Championship Pirates team includes Zane Axelberg, Trevor Bagwell, Josh Buffington, Jake Carden, Garrett Child, Christian Childress, Landon Clark, Ian Davis, Carson Gaston, Kaleb Hammond, Kole Hammond, Andrew Huffstetler, Brooks Johnson, Coleman Johnson, Braden Osbolt, Ridge Smith, Caden Swift, Mason Trucks and Cyle Wells. The team was coached by Don Hanson, John Hanson, Blake Parrott, Kevin Mobley, John Sutton and Craig Chatman.
“If there was one thing that this community and fan base should know about these young men is they really love each other. They pray together before and after every practice and game,” said coach Hanson. “It is not something that they are asked to do but something that they themselves have requested to do. What a great group of young men that we have had the pleasure of coaching, teaching and loving. They are true champions in my eyes.”
The Pike County Pirates took on the Redan Raiders in the first game of the State Championship series on Monday, May 23 with Mason Trucks on the mound. Trucks was opposed by Bernard Moon of the Raiders. Trucks and Moon were able to work in and out of trouble through the first couple of innings before Redan finally took the lead in the top of the third inning. The Raiders scored two runs in the top of the third on an errant throw to first base by Trucks. The score stayed 2-0 Raiders until the bottom of the fourth inning when the strike zone began to jump around on Moon and the Pirates were able to push five runs across the plate without getting a hit. The Raiders added a run in the bottom of the fifth on a single by Manolo Parcells to cut the lead to 5-3. The Pirates added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning when they were able to get a Coleman Johnson single and a Kole Hammond double to push the lead to 6-3. The Raiders’ Deniel Ortiz homered off of Kole Hammond in the top of the seventh to cut the lead to 6-4 but Hammond was able to shut the door for Trucks and give the Pirates their 35th win and a 1-0 series lead.
Braden Osbolt was the stalwart in game two for the entirety of the Pirates run through the play-offs and he was magnificent in his complete game performance, but it was not enough to out-duel Anthony Mateo for the Raiders. Mateo allowed only two hits, and really kept the Pirates off balance at the plate. Osbolt gave up two runs in seven innings and made huge pitch after huge pitch to keep the Pirates within striking distance. The Raiders were able to push two runs across in the bottom of the third on a pop-up that was lost in the twilight sky, an end of the bat single, and a double by Moon. The 2-0 loss for the Pirates was just the second time all season that they had been shut-out. The Raider victory brought the series even at 1-1 with the deciding game scheduled for Tuesday at noon.
Trevor Bagwell stepped up huge for the Pirates in crucial game three performances against Sonoraville and Greater Atlanta Christian
and he led the Pirates in a deciding game three with the state title at stake.
Redan countered with Deniel Ortiz on the mound. Ortiz had beaten Pierce County 6-1 in game three of the Final Four series just the week before. Bagwell put the first two hitters on in the first, but a double play ball was able to get him two quick outs and a chance to get out of the inning without any damage. A wild pitch, however, allowed the first run to cross and gave Redan an early 1-0 lead. The game stayed 1-0 until the top of the fourth inning when the Raiders were able to score another run on a sharp single to right field. The score was 2-0 Redan heading to the bottom of the fourth inning when the Pirates offense showed back up in the series. Pike County had been held scoreless for 10 consecutive innings until Mason Trucks scored on a pass ball with one out in the fourth. Ridge Smith then tied up the game with a sac fly to center, scoring Kaleb Hammond. With the score tied 2-2, Zane Axleberg dropped down a perfect drag bunt for a single. Axleburg scored on a double by Josh Buffington and the Pirates had a 3-2 lead. Redan tied the game in the top of the fifth on a RBI single by Parcells to left field. The game remained tied until Coleman Johnson came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and Axleburg and Buffington on base. Johnson took an 0-1 fastball off of the left field wall for a two-RBI triple and a 5-3 Pirate lead. After striking out the lead-off batter in the seventh, Bagwell walked the next batter and gave up a double to the following hitter. Hammond replaced Bagwell and got a fly ball to Ridge Smith for out two. With the score 5-4, Hammond executed a perfect curveball on a 3-2 count which led to a pop up down the first base line. When Mason Trucks squeezed that pop-up for out three, the Pirates were the 2022 State Champions.
Bagwell was the winner of game three, throwing six and 1/3 innings of three-hit, four-run ball. Hammond got the final two outs for his second save of the championship series. The series victory pushed the Pirates’ record to 36-6 for the regular and post season. It also gave the Pirates program their second state championship title in three full seasons.
“It was a classic series, back and forth, intense, with neither team wanting to give an inch,” said coach Craig Chatman. “The Redan Raiders and the Pike County Pirates gave the state of Georgia the best play-off series of the championship round. The Pirates, courtesy of win 36, were able to bring the AAA State Championship back to Zebulon.”