Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Parkview Matt Olson (21), Rob Youngblood (11) and head coach Chan Brown (25) celebrate a run scored by Ryan Blanton (4) during high school baseball action at Parkview High School in Lilburn on Friday. Parkview defeated Grayson 5-4.
LILBURN -- Parkview head coach Chan Brown said that his Panthers have yet to click on all cylinders this season.
But Friday night, the Parkview engine made just enough noise to come away with a 5-4 win over Region 8-AAAAA rival Grayson.
The win gave the Panthers (15-3 overall) a little breathing room at the top of the region baseball standings at 9-0, while Grayson (15-5 overall) stayed in second with a 9-2 mark.
"It's good to have that little cushion but we've still got a lot of work to do," said Brown, whose Panthers face another key region game today against Brookwood. "Grayson has become a great team and I give them all the props I can. (Grayson starter) Chris Erwin was great tonight, but we hung in there and found a way to get some runs across.
"I knew this was going to be a tough one to win."
Erwin went 5 innings for the Rams but was the recipient of some tough luck as three of the five runs charged to him were unearned.
Two of those came in the first inning when a routine infield grounder that would have ended the frame turned into a throwing error, allowing two runs to score, while a mistimed play on a delayed steal in the sixth gave Parkview a huge insurance run.
Erwin finished with five strikeouts and seven hits with one walk and one hit batter.
"It has really been tough for him," Grayson head coach Seth Rhine said of Erwin. "We've asked him to go up against that lineup twice and he has held them at bay each time. It speaks to the kind of competitor he is."
Parkview countered with hard-throwing righty Matt Olson, who went the distance, giving up four runs (one unearned) on eight hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Olson improved to 7-0.
After Parkview took the 2-0 lead in the first, Grayson bounced back in the second when Brandon Benson led off with a single to right, eventually scoring on Jack Banda's groundout to short. Benson finished the night 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Hitting behind Benson in the order was Taylor Allum, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs. Allum's bat put the Rams out in front in the fourth inning when he turned on an 0-2 fastball from Olson for a two-run homer to right, putting the Rams ahead 3-2.
That lead stood until the fifth when the Panthers scratched out a run to tie it at 3-3. Rob Youngblood led off with a single to center, advanced to second on a ground out by Josh Hart (who finished 2-for-4 with a run), and scored on Edwin Arias' single to right.
Arias' RBI single was his second hit of the night.
Olson would breeze through the sixth and the Panthers responded in the bottom half when Jarrett Freeman led off with a booming double to center.
Freeman would later score when Ryan Blanton tripled to right center, putting the Panthers up 4-3 and chasing Erwin from the game.
With two outs in the inning and runners at first and third, Parkview attempted a delayed steal. Grayson attempted to have the pitcher snare the throw and look back at third, but the attempt bounced off the pitcher's glove, allowing Blanton to score what would be a huge insurance run.
The Rams mounted a rally in the seventh, getting an RBI single from Banda to drive in Allum, who led off with a triple. But a failed sacrifice bunt attempt and a double play ended the comeback, giving the Panthers the 5-4 win.
"Both teams have a lot of respect for each other and bring a high level of energy to the field," Rhine said. "We had two well-coached teams tonight and games like this come down to kids making plays."