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Baseball: Trojans rally to beat White Co., clinch playoff spot

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
GAINESVILLE -- In a season that began with more questions than answers, the North Hall baseball team got all the answers it was looking for Monday.

The Trojans, behind a complete-game four-hitter from Corbin Lewallen, rallied for a 3-1 win over White County at Jody Davis Field to clinch no worse than second place in Region 7-AAA.

North Hall (16-7, 14-4 Region 7-AAA) started the season 1-3 with several key injuries, including one that forced Lewallen to miss half the season. The Trojans also were not sure what to expect coming off their best season in school history, including a trip to the Class AAA championship series.

North Hall coach Trent Mongero said despite the early setbacks, there was no panic in the Trojans' dugout.

"This has been the epitomy of team," Mongero said. "When someone has been hurt or struggling, someone else has stepped up. I'm extremely proud of the guys. They worked hard in the off-season and have really grown up as the season has gone on."

The big momentum change Monday occurred in the bottom of the third when sophomore Drew Atha led off the inning with his first-ever varsity home run to tie the game at 1-1. The person most surprised was Atha himself.

"I just hit the ball and ran," he said. "All of a sudden I see the guy standing at the wall and coach waved me around. I was very surprised."

"I was giving it a little body-english," Mongero said. "That's a great moment for him and it really shifted the game for us."

Lewallen and White County's Joel Prichett were locked in a tight pitcher's duel throughout and surrendered just 10 hits and struck out 11 combined.

It was a tough loss for the Warriors (16-8, 11-8) who are locked in a three-way battle for the final two spots with West Hall and Dawson County.

"Joel pitched well enough to win but we just haven't hit the ball all year," White County coach John Brown said. "We need one win to make sure but we have a tough finish. Nothing is for certain."

The Warriors will take on No. 1 Buford Wednesday and then West Hall on Friday, both on the road, to close out the regular season.

Both pitchers were solid early on.

Lewallen worked around a two-out double by Spencer Adams in the first and then got an inning-ending double play in the second. Pritchett got the Trojans in order in the first and stranded a leadoff double by Lincoln Hewett in the second with a strikeout and a ground out with Hewett at third.

In the top of the third, the Warriors struck first. They got a leadoff walk from Tray Gearin, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Trey Allen and then to third on a wild pitch. Gearin scored on a two-out single by Matt Hambrick for a 1-0 lead.

North Hall answered right back in the bottom of the third on Atha's home run that cleared the left field wall with just inches to spare.

The Trojans took the lead for good in the fourth on a RBI double by Lewallen scoring Hewett, who walked to lead off the inning. North hall had a chance at a big inning but White County would get out of the jam turning a double play.

While the offense was manufacturing runs, Lewallen found his groove in the middle innings. He retired seven straight and 10 of 11, including three strikeouts, from the third to sixth innings. He struck out the side in the seventh after the Warriors' Peyton Applewhite reached on error to start the inning to seal the win.

"I like the way we pitch and play defense and I feel very confident in these guys," Mongero said. "We still haven't played our best game. You want to finish strong heading into the playoffs and I feel we have a good chance to do that."

The Trojans will take on Buford Tuesday before closing out their regular season Friday at home against East Hall.
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