Tuesday February 9th, 2016 3:53PM

Baseball: Rough start dooms Trojans; fall 5-2 to Blessed Trinity in Game 3

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
ROSWELL -- Blessed Trinity exacted a measure of revenge Thursday against North Hall in the two teams' deciding Game 3 of their Class AAA second round matchup.

The Titans used a four-run first inning to take the lead and then held off the Trojans 5-2 to take the series 2-1 and advance to the quarterfinal round.

Last season North Hall knocked out the Titans in the semifinal round on the way to its first-ever championship series. It was not meant to be this year for the Trojans, however.

"We got off to a little bit of a rough start at the beginning and just couldn't overcome it," North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. "It's a little disappointing because we really felt we could win this game."

It actually started well for the Trojans (21-10) who jumped on freshman Titans' starter Patrick McNamara quickly in the first. Andrew Smith walked on four straight pitches to start the game, then stole second and third with one out. Micah Strickland drove Smith home with a RBI ground out to give North Hall a 1-0 lead.

But the Titans would answer right back in the bottom of the first off North Hall starter Josh Hammonds. Bronco O'Brien singled to center and Jack Dunn walked. They would both move up a base on a double steal and Conor Davis walked to load the bases.

O'Brien would score on a wild pitch to tie the game and Dunn scored on the next batter when Strickland, after a long run on a ball to deep center by John Castro, had the ball tick off the end of his glove in center to give the Titans a 2-1 lead. Bryson Jenkins followed with a two-run single driving in Davis and Castro for a 4-1 lead.

Blessed Trinity chased Hammonds in the second and added another run when O'Brien scored on a wild pitch by Corbin Lewallen, who relieved Hammonds.

Meanwhile, McNamara settled down after the first inning. The lefty retired 12 of the next 14 batters, and got an inning-ending double play from his defense to end the fifth to erase one of the base runners. He went 5 1/3 innings allowing just one run on four hits.

Blessed Trinity coach Andrew Harlin said he was more than pleased with how his young pitcher handled the pressure.

"He got to pitch a couple of games this year against some big-time programs and it was his turn (in the rotation) so we gave him a shot," Harlin said. "I thought he did a great job."

Mongero said his offense just couldn't find its rhythm against the southpaw.

"We talked about how our approach needs to be different against a left-hander but we didn't adjust as quickly as we needed to," Mongero said. "(McNamara) did a nice job of keeping us off-balance. What can you say."

Smith replaced Lewallen in the fourth and faced just three batters as the Trojans defense turned its own double play to end the fifth. North Hall inched closer in the sixth.

Smith singled to start and moved to second on a balk. He got to third after a long fly ball to right by McCoy Savage and then scored on an infield hit by Strickland. Lincoln Hewett followed with a single chasing McNamara.

Cody Roberts relieved McNamara and got Lewallen to hit a dribbler in front of the plate and Strickland was thrown out at home trying to score. Stephen Murray then got hit to load the bases but Drew Atha struck out to end the inning.

"We did a nice of getting a little closer. The guys never gave up and the seniors kept pushing the younger guys to stay in the game," Mongero said. "We just couldn't quite get over the hump."

Smith retired the Titans in order in the sixth sending it to the seventh inning but North Hall went down in order to end the game and its season.

Smith scored both runs in his final game for North Hall and said he felt they showed that the program wasn't down after losing five college-signees from last year's state runner-up.

"I thought we proved a lot of people wrong," Smith said. "The guys never gave up. It hurts right now but I'm proud of my teammates and how we came together during the year."

Lewallen pitched two innings of scoreless ball after pitching a complete-game on Wednesday. Smith went two innings allowing just one hit.

Savage, Brandon DeLong, and Murray all also finished their high school careers on Thursday.

While Mongero was still praising his seniors for the time in the program, he did say the future looks bright for the Trojans in 2015.

"The impact of these seniors hasn't fully sunk in yet but they are a great bunch and will be hard to replace," Mongero said. "But we return all but one of our main pitchers and have some great young talent coming up."
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