Josh Hatcher pitched a two-hitter with seven strikeouts Friday as Lee County defeated Johns Creek 8-0 in Game 3 of a Class AAAAAA semifinal baseball series that spent more time in appeals than on the field.
The game was tied 0-0 entering the fifth inning, when Lee County, playing at home, put up seven runs. Hatcher, a Mississippi State signee, hit a two-run single for a 2-0 lead. Garret Suiter followed with a two-run double. Brenton Phillip and Malik Spratling followed with hits, Spratling's a two-run double, in the big inning.
Cole Neuber had both of Johns Creek's hits.
Lee County advances to play Pope in the best-of-three championship series beginning Monday at 11 a.m. in Rome.
The controversial semifinal series began nine days earlier when Lee County walked off the field believing it had swept the series in two games. Johns Creek appealed the outcome of Game 2, when Johns Creek appeared to have won the game with a bases-loaded walk in the seventh inning. Umpires ruled that the runner at second base failed to touch third, and the game continued, tied 3-3. Lee won 5-3 in extra innings.
After the GHSA executive director and appeals board rejected Johns Creek's argument that the call was missed, the GHSA board of trustees on Monday overturned the result, giving Johns Creek a 4-3 win and forcing Game 3.
The delay gave Lee County ace Hatcher plenty of rest for the finale, although Johns Creek had tagged him for 12 hits in Lee County's 7-4 win in Game 1. Hatcher homered and drove in three runs in that game.
Lee County, the alma mater of San Francisco Giants star Buster Posey, has long been a baseball power, but never a state champion.