The Region 4AAAAA champion Hawks (24-9) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, behind a RBI single from Chad Akins, but the Region 8AAAAA champion Panthers (27-6) responded with five runs in the bottom half of the inning and two more in the second for a 7-1 advantage.
Hillgrove rallied for four runs in the fifth, but Parkview added an insurance score in the sixth while keeping the Hawks at bay over the final two frames to take the victory.
The series was a rematch of last year’s Class AAAAA state final, which also saw the Panthers win in three games.
Parkview advanced to the state semifinals and will host Gwinnett County rival Mill Creek beginning Monday.
Hillgrove, meanwhile, saw its season come to a close one round shy of consecutive semifinal appearances.
“We scored one in the top of the first, but gave them a 5-spot in bottom half of the inning and two more in the second,” Hillgrove coach Dave Richardson said. “It’s difficult to climb out of a hole like that, but I have to give my kids credit because they fought back.
“We put four up late in the game and got back in it. The guys competed and never gave in. This was a special group of kids out there (Wednesday). With all of the uncertainty we had coming into this season, with everybody that we lost from last year, and to end up region champions and almost making the final four again — I’m just really proud of them.”
Tyler Weyenberg walked to lead off the first, stole second and scored on Adkins’ RBI single for the 1-0 Hillgrove lead.
However, the Hawks’ starting pitcher, Sean O’Leary, was off his game as Parkview’s first five batters reached on two singles, two walks and a hit batsman. Brian Minter relieved O’Leary with no outs and the bases loaded, and with Parkview already holding a 2-0 edge.
Ryan Blanton then singled home a run, Jack Esmonde added an RBI groundout and A.J. Davis chipped in a sacrifice fly to give the Panthers the 5-0 lead.
Parkview starter Mac Marshall, who allowed three earned runs on four hits, walked four and struck out three in 4 1/3 innings, kept Hillgrove off the board over the next three innings.
Matt Olson, who was 2-for-3 with a walk, hit a no-out, two-run double in the bottom of the second to extend Parkview’s margin to 7-1.
Hillgrove finally got to Marshall in the fifth. Adkins drew a one-out walk, and Tyler Mauzy singled to put runners at first and third. Matthew Vaccaro reached on an error off reliever Jack Esmonde that scored Adkins, and Tyler Graham’s double plated Mauzy and Vaccaro to trim the deficit to 7-4.
Pinch-hitter Brian Johnson followed with a one-out RBI double that scored pinch-runner Nick Matazinsky to make it 7-5, but Esmonde forced a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat.
Nick Andrews, who came on board for Hillgrove in the third, didn’t allow a run before loading the bases with no outs in the sixth. He was then relieved by Mitchell Mannino, but the Panthers brought a run in when Josh Hart scored on Hunter Thornton’s bases-loaded double play.
Esmonde struck out three of the seven batters he faced in the sixth and seventh, preserving the win for Parkview.
The top of Parkview’s order — Edwin Arias, Hart, Olson and Jeff Freeland — combined to go 8-for-12 with three RBIs and seven runs scored. Hart was 3-for-3 and scored three times, while Olson batted 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Graham batted 1-for-4 with two RBIs to pace Hillgrove.
“Nick Andrews hadn’t pitched more than three innings all season, but he did a great job for us (Wednesday),” Richardson said. “This whole team was a very unselfish group. We went from hitting 49 home runs in 39 games last year to 12 homers in 33 games. The kids bought into playing small ball, and that was special.
“Give (Parkview) coach (Chan) Brown credit. His team is nationally-ranked, and they have a lot of pressure on them, and they performed the way they had to.”