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Saturday May 28th, 2016 10:25PM

Baseball: Cronic grand slam leads West Hall past Dawson

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
OAKWOOD -- West Hall baseball coach Dustin Rennspies swears his Spartans are not trying to make any statements of any kind in the early part of the season.

But after Wednesday's thrilling 11-7, come-from-behind win over Dawson County, the rest of Region 7-AAA surely is taking notice.

"We're 2-0 (in the region) right now and that's nice. But, really it doesn't mean much. There are still 19 (region) games left. It's a marathon, not a sprint," Rennspies said.

The win gave the Spartans (6-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) a stunning home-and-home sweep of the Tigers, a playoff team from a year ago. The manner in which they pulled off the victory is also noteworthy.

The Spartans took a 2-0 lead, fell behind 6-2, and then exploded for seven runs in the sixth inning, including a grand slam by senior centerfielder Michael Cronic to erase a 6-6 tie.

Cronic, who had never hit a home run at the high school level until this season, said there is a noticeable change in the program this year. The grand slam was his third home run of the season in just seven games.

"The coaches have us taking better approaches to how we play in all phases of the game," he said. "It's been a lot of fun so far. We're just trying to do what we can to win games.

"On the home run, I really was just trying to make contact to drive in a run and give us the lead. I didn't think it was going to go out."

"That inning is what the difference is from last year to this year," Rennspies said. "They are a year older and they believe. They never got down when they got behind."

Will Simmons earned the win for West Hall pitching 2 1/3 innings of relief allowing three runs on three hits. J. T. Eggert took the loss for Dawson County allowing nine runs on nine hits.

West Hall jumped out to the early lead in the first on a bases-loaded single by Simmons scoring Lincoln Stubbs and Zach English. The Spartans had a chance to add on to their lead in both the first two innings but stranded four runners, three in scoring position, as Eggert was able to induce two key groundouts to end the innings.

Dawson County (5-2, 0-2) finally broke through against West Hall starter Dustin Gaddis with an unearned run in the third on a throwing error with two outs scoring Harley Pruitt. Eggert began to settle down on the mound retiring eight of nine batters during the middle innings.

The Tigers took the lead in the fourth when Zach Buchan led off with a single and scored on a two-out single by Pruitt to tie the game. Pinch-hitter Luke Martin then sliced a double down the left field line scoring Levi Whitmire and Pruitt for a 4-2 lead.

Pruitt would tally his third hit of the game in the fifth stroking a bases-loaded single to right plating Buchan and Whitmire for a 6-2 lead.

The Spartans started the comeback in the bottom of the fifth. Cameron Johnson led off the inning with a home run to right, his third homer in as many games, and then English reached on a hit and error and scored on a second Dawson County error in the inning to cut the lead to 6-4. West Hall loaded the bases with two outs but Jacob Taylor's liner to left was snared to end the inning.

West Hall got a spark in the top of the sixth when Simmons got out of a two on, nobody out jam without allowing a run. The Spartans then loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth with no outs.

Brian Newman drove in Stubbs with a single to left to cut the lead to 6-5. Simmons would strike out but Cam Warner laced a single to center scoring Johnson to tie the game at 6 and chasing Eggert from the game.

Cronic then followed with a towering grand slam off Tigers' reliever Whitmire for a 10-6 lead for the Spartans. Johnson drove in Collins, who beat the throw home on a grounder to second, to make it 11-6 West Hall.

Dawson County added a run in the top of the seventh on a RBI ground out by Pruitt, his fourth of the game, but the Tigers could get no closer.

NOTES: The loss for Dawson County was its first road loss of the season (3-1). . .West Hall is now 4-1 at home and sits atop the region pending the Buford and North Hall games. . .It was the first game for both teams allowing more than five runs in a game. But, the wind was blowing at nearly 40 mph to straight right field, where both home runs in the game were hit.
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