GAINESVILLE — Without his No. 1 pitcher and a starting senior outfielder being available, North Hall baseball coach Trevor Flow knew nothing was going to come easy as they opened the Class 3A playoffs Wednesday at home in a best-of-three series against Coahulla Creek.
And despite a gallant effort by lefty Jackson Dyer and some outstanding defense, the Region 7-3A No. 2 seed Trojans could not finish off the Region 6-3A No. 3 Colts in a two-game sweep.
North Hall took Game 1, 8-1, behind a masterful performance from Kelton Kieschnick, who set the tone in Game 1 setting down the first five Colts and then mowing down 11 of the final 12 batters he faced for the complete-game win.
The Colts, however, answered in Game 2 with senior right-hander Eli Turso, who fanned 13 in a 2-1 win to even the series and send it to a deciding Game 3 Thursday at Jody Davis Field.
First-pitch on Thursday will be at 6 p.m.
North Hall (16-13) is expected to go with Wes Tadman while Coahulla Creek (12-14) is not settled on a starter. Colts coach Michael Bolen said it will be a game-time decision.
“Right now we’re just glad to get to the second day. Everyone will be available except for Turso and we’ll just have to see where we are (Thursday),” Bolen said.
Flow was both pleased with where they are and disappointed that they could not finish the series on opening day.
“Considering we don’t have Caleb (Clark) able to pitch and David (Seavey) is also not available, and we also have two freshmen starting in the playoffs, I was very pleased with the way the guys battled,” Flow said. “But after we tied the game in Game 2, we had a chance to really have a big inning and we didn’t execute the squeeze the way we have been in practice. It was there for us (to get the sweep) and now we have to come back (Thursday).”
Both coaches also know that game-planning for a Game 3, where anything is possible and everyone and everything is typically available, is almost futile.
“Anything goes as far as we're concerned,” Bolen said. “You can never predict how a Game 3 is going to go. We’re just going to try and be ready for anything and everything.”
“I feel good about things overall,” Flow said. “We have experience with Game 3s so we’ll be ready for anything.”
Game 1: North Hall 8, Coahulla Creek 1
Kieschnik set the Colts down 1-2-3 in the top of the first to set the tone.
The offense got going quickly as North Hall opened with back-to-back singles from Clark and Ty Brooks off Coahulla Creek starter James Reece in the bottom of the first. But Clark was gunned down trying to steal third, Caleb Wiley lined out to short, and Bradford Puryear, after a walk to Jackson Dyer, struck out to end the inning.
Kieschnick continued to dominate retiring 9 of the first 10 Colts through the third inning allowing just an infield single.
Clark broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third with an opposite-field home run to left-center for a 1-0 North Hall lead. The Colts answered right back in the fourth as Kieschnick hit Donavon Sims with one out and Sims scored one batter later on Joey Estrada’s double to left to tie the game.
It stayed that way until a two-out rally in the fifth by the Trojans. Clark singled, moved to second on a Ty Brooks walk, and both scored on a double into the left-field corner by Caleb Wiley for a 3-1 lead.
In the sixth, North Hall sent 10 batters to the plate after loading the bases with two outs and blew the game open as the Colts replaced starter James Reece (5.2IP, 7H, 5BB, 5K, 6R, 3ER) with Eli Chumley. Ty Brooks singled in a run, Caleb Wiley reached on a dropped fly ball to right scoring two runs, and Dyer knocked in Ty Brooks for an 8-1 lead.
Reece came into the contest with a sub-1.00 ERA on the season. Meanwhile, Kieschnick cruised after the fourth retiring 11 of the final 12 Colts to get the win. He fanned four and walked just one in perhaps his best outing of the season at just the right time.
“I felt pretty good out there. The defense made some great plays behind me,” Kieschnick said. “The playoffs are a new season with new heroes. It just happened to be me (in the first game).”
Game 2: Coahulla Creek 2, North Hall 1
The Trojans had trouble solving Turso, who retired 12 straight following a leadoff bunt single by Clark in the first. He struck out 10 through the first five innings.
Meanwhile, North Hall starter Jackson Dyer wiggled in and out of trouble most of the game. Coahulla Creek took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Michael King walked, moved to second on a balk, and later scored on an RBI single from Joey Estrada.
But the Trojans managed to get out of a potentially big first inning with a double play; Dyer worked around a leadoff single in the second and the Trojan defense turned another double play to end the third to keep it a 1-0 deficit.
Dyer snapped Turso’s streak with a two-out single in the fourth and Bradford Puryear followed with a walk. Both moved up a base on an errant pick-off attempt. But Turso got out of the mess with a strikeout of Dylan Wiley.
The Colts again looked ready to add on in the fourth but North Hall turned its third double play of the game when Caleb Wiley snared a liner at short and tossed to Ty Brooks at second to get out of the jam.
After Dyer finished his first 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, the North Hall offense finally broke through against Turso. Clark doubled and moved to third on a bunt single by Ty Brooks. Caleb Wiley followed with another bunt single and Clark scored on an errant throw to tie the game. But Turso settled down to force Dyer to pop up and caught Brooks off third for a double play on a squeeze attempt. Puryear grounded out to end the inning.
“That’s a play that if we practice 20 times a day we never pop up,” Flow said. “Just one of those things. If we get that down I think it turns out differently. Our defense was outstanding.
“Jackson just battled his tail off. He has so much ability. He has a plus-curveball but was working behind hitters too much. He gave us everything he had.”
Coahulla Creek came right back looking to reclaim the lead loading the bases with one out on two hits and a walk in the bottom of the sixth. Dyer fanned Grant Ogle for the second out but Castaneda beat out an infield hit to score Irvin Hernandez for a 2-1 lead.
Fittingly, Turso struck out the side in the seventh to finish with 13 strikeouts to cap the win for the Colts.
Dyer also went the distance scattering seven hits, walking three, and striking out three.