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Thursday May 28th, 2015 12:17PM

Baseball: Trojans, Titans split; deciding Game 3 Tuesday

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
GAINESVILLE -- You knew something would have to give between Blessed Trinity and North Hall in their best-of-three Class AAA semifinal series Monday at Jody Davis Field.

North Hall was undefeated at home in 2013 while the Titans had not lost to a Class AAA team all season. Both streaks came to screeching halts.

North Hall knocked off the top-ranked Titans in Game 1, 1-0, behind a masterful pitching performance from Preston Graham. Blessed Trinity returned the favor with an 8-5 win in Game 2 behind Nathaniel Maggio, who belted three home runs and drove in five runs.

The two teams will now face a one-game showdown Tuesday at Jody Davis Field for a spot in Saturday's championship series. North Hall won the coin flip and will be the home team. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.

The winner will play host to Cartersville, which swept St. Pius, 4-3 and 9-4, in the other semifinal series Monday.

"We knew it would be a tough series and it has been," Blessed Trinity coach Andy Harlin said. "Graham was unbelievable in the first game. Nathaniel was just locked in in that second game."

The end of the second game could play a factor in Tuesday's deciding Game 3. The Trojans trailed 8-0 heading into the final inning and battered two Blessed Trinity pitchers for five runs and got the tying run to the plate.

"That was huge for us," North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. "I loved how we showed some fight in that last inning. Hopefully that will give us some momentum for (Tuesday)."

The Trojans (31-4) will send left-hander Colton Duttweiler to the mound in Game 3. Harlin said it will be a gametime decision as to who gets the ball for the Titans (27-5).

Mongero said everyone is available for the Trojans as they try to advance to their first-ever championship series.

"Preston did not throw that many pitches and even though Adam (Kelly) got knocked around a little in Game 2 he can go. When it's one game to make it to the finals, everyone needs to be ready," Mongero said.

Game 1: North Hall 1, Blessed Trinity 0

The opening game was a matchup of two of Class AAA's best pitchers, the Trojans' Graham and the Titans' Reed Scott, a South Carolina signee.

Both pitchers made quick work of the lineups in the first inning with 1-2-3 frames. Graham fanned two in the second to get the Titans in order again.

The Trojans would get the first scoring chance in the bottom of the second getting two runners on with one out. Adam Kelly singled to right and Lincoln Hewett reached on an error. But Scott would strike out Stephen Murray and McCoy Savage to end the inning.

Blessed Trinity would get its first chance in the third. Jack Dunn doubled past a diving Kelly in center with two outs and then would move to third on an error by Andrew Smith. But Graham got Bronco O'Brien to ground out to Smith to end the inning.

The Trojans finally broke through in the fourth. Kelly would double down the left field line with two outs, move to third on an errant pick-off attempt, and then score on an error on a ground ball hit by Hewett for a 1-0 lead.

That would be all Graham needed. The crafty left-hander fanned five and retired the final 13 batters to get the complete-game win. It ranks up there with his 17-strikeout performance against Decatur in the first round of the playoffs.

"Preston was just dominant the entire game," Mongero said. "This may be a better outing because of the importance of the game. I'm almost at a loss for words about how good he was."

Scott was solid for the Titans striking out 10 in six innings and walking none. The only run was unearned.

Game 2: Blessed Trinity 8, North Hall 5

The Titans wasted little time in jumping on North Hall starter Kelly. Sam Roberts singled to start and would score on a one-out single by Kennan Innis for a quick 1-0 led.

Kelly would pick off Innis for the second out and had two strikes on Maggio, a Tennessee signee, and was poised to get out of the inning. But Maggio would drill the next pitch over the centerfield wall for a home run and a 2-0 lead.

Blessed Trinity would another run in the second. Dunn would reach on a wild pitch on a third strike that would have ended the inning. After Dunn stole second, Sam Roberts would follow with a double to center to give the Titans a 3-0 lead.

Maggio would continue to feast on North Hall pitching in the second game. He would connect for a two-run shot off Kelly in the third for a 5-0 lead and then capped a three-run fourth with his third homer of the game, a two-run blast off Corbin Lewellan to make it 8-0 Titans.

Kelly, the series hero against Pierce County in the quarterfinal round, was roughed up for seven runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Lewellan would settle down and allow just three hits in 2 2/3 innings and just the one run.

North Hall was held in check through the first six innings by left-hander Brian Kehner, who yielded two hits.

But the Trojans had one last rally as they tried to pull off the sweep.

Harlin pulled Kehner after the sith and North Hall would load the bases with one out against the Titans first reliever. The Trojans then got an RBI single from Stephen Murray, a bases loaded walk to Lewellan, and then a RBI single from Graham before the Titans brought in a second reliever. Andrew Smith would follow with a RBI single to bring the tying run to the plate.

But Zach Mize ground into a game-ending double play to set up Tuesday's series finale.

"We didn't get the win but I think it will make a big difference for us," Graham said. "I feel much better about going into the last game after that (rally). We're loose and ready to go."
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