GAINESVILLE — Fannin County did to North Hall what the Trojans usually do to their opponents.
The Rebels got two solid starting performances on the mound, played nearly flawless in the field, and got clutch hitting to sweep North Hall 12-1 and 9-2 Friday night in a crucial Region 7-3A doubleheader at Jody Davis Field.
Carson Beavers went 6 2/3 innings in the first game while Matthew Shirah went 5 2/3 innings in the second game for the Rebels. The pair surrendered just six hits and three runs combined as the defense committed just two errors. At the plate, Fannin County was a blistering 10-for-24 with RISP with 13 RBI in the doubleheader.
Conversely, North Hall committed 10 errors that led to 12 unearned runs in the two games and spoiled otherwise good performances by Kelton Kieschnick and Wes Tadman on the mound. The Trojans were just 2-for-13 with RISP and just two RBI at the plate.
“I thought we pitched pretty well. But you can’t play the way we did in the field and expect to beat a team as good as that one,” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said.
The victories pulled Fannin County (18-6, 11-4 Region 7-3A) to within a half-game of North Hall (14-11, 13-5 Region 7-3A) for first place. The Rebels close out their regular season and region schedule next week against East Hall beginning on Monday. The two losses wrapped up North Hall’s region schedule.
Two wins against the Vikings would give Fannin County its first-ever region title. However, two East Hall wins would hand the title to North Hall, which is looking for its second consecutive crown. Two of the games will be held in Blue Ridge in a doubleheader next Friday and one at East Hall Park on Tuesday.
Normally, most teams would love the home-field advantage. But the Rebels are just 5-4 at home and a perfect 12-0 now on the road in 2019. The anomaly is something that Fannin County coach Travis Stone is well aware of.
“We’ve played very well on the road all year. I don’t know if the guys just feel more comfortable getting on a bus and going to play without all the distractions you get at home sometimes or what,” Stone said. “I know the bus driver said we’re getting on a bus and driving around the school next week before we play. Whatever it takes.
“For some reason we just haven’t played very well at home. And East Hall is better than their record. We haven’t won anything yet and we’ll have to play well.”
Game 1: Fannin County 12, North Hall 1
The Rebels jumped out to the early lead taking advantage of two North Hall errors and getting a RBI single from Hunter Gray, scoring Carson Beavers, who reached on an error, for a 1-0 lead.
The Trojans answered back in the bottom of the first to tie the game when Caleb Clark reached on an error and later scored on a balk with the bases loaded. But North Hall stranded a pair of runners in scoring position when Dylan Wiley flied out to right to end the inning.
Fannin came right back in the top of the second getting a RBI squeeze bunt from Tyler Norton scoring courtesy runner Brady Martin and later Miles Johnson stole home on a double steal. Chandler Kendall then doubled in Beavers for a 4-1 lead.
The Rebels continued to take advantage of North Hall mistakes. Matthew Shirah reached on an error and then scored from first on a three-base error as the Trojans botched a potential doubleplay. Fannin made it 8-1 in the fifth on RBI doubles by Shirah and Johnson and a RBI groundout by Jerritt Holloway after another North Hall error.
In the sixth Shirah rapped out his third hit and second RBI of the game to make it 9-1. Beavers capped it with a three-run home run in the seventh off reliever Jack Wiley, who replaced North Hall starter Kelton Kieschnick in the sixth. Kieschnick went five innings giving up eight hits and striking out three. Only one of the eight runs he allowed was earned, however.
Beavers, meanwhile, settled down after getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the third. The southpaw retired 11 of the last 14 batters he faced and surrendered just one hit after the third and struck out nine to get the win for the Rebels.
The Rebels were 7-for-15 with RISP with 10 RBI for the game. North Hall was just 1-for-6 with RISP and no RBI.
Game 2: Fannin County 9, North Hall 2
North Hall’sTadman and Fannin’s Shirah were sharp early on the mound.
Tadman retired the first five Rebels batters and 7 of the first 9 into the third. But a walk and two errors and then a grand slam home run off the top of the left field wall with two outs by Hunter Gray gave the Rebels a 4-0 lead. Jerritt Holloway later added a RBI single in the inning for a 5-0 lead in a 34-pitch inning for Tadman.
“I’m disappointed in the way we fielded the ball,” Flow said.
Shirah hit a batter in the first with two out but then retired the next six, including four straight strikeouts, until Caleb Clark singled with two out in the third. Shirah hit Ty Brooks but got Caleb Wiley to fly out to get out the jam.
In the fourth the Rebels added on with a two-run home run by Chandler Kendall to dead center for a 7-0 lead.
Tadman, who allowed just three hits and only two earned runs in four innings, was replaced by Ty Brooks to start the fifth and he retired the first six batters he faced. Brooks went three innings allowing just one hit and striking out five. But two more North Hall errors in the seventh resulted in two more unearned runs.
The North Hall offense finally got to Shirah in the sixth when he hit both Dylan Wiley and Jared Bales. Freshman Bradford Puryear, making his first varsity start, then ripped his first varsity hit into the gap in right center driving in both Wiley and Bales to trim the lead to 7-2 and knock Shirah out of the game.
Puryear had no idea he would be making his varsity debut.
“I wasn’t expecting it for sure,” Puryear said. “As a kid I had dreamed of being able to start a game for North Hall as a freshman and that came true. I definitely took a moment when I went out to left field.
“When I got the hit and rounded first it was just an amazing feeling. It was a pretty cool experience.”
Shirah, who went 5 2/3 innings, allowed just the two runs on three hits but walked two, hit five, and fanned six. Blake Rogers pitched the final 1 1/3 innings retiring four of the five batters he faced to close out the series.