RINGGOLD — Behind another pair of pitching gems from Jaret Bales and Eli Reece, the North Hall baseball team advanced to the finals of the Class 3A playoffs sweeping Ringgold on the road on Saturday.
It's the first finals appearance for North Hall (31-5) since winning the 2017 Class 3A title. The Trojans will play the winner of the Franklin County-Appling County series in the finals on May 22 at 5 p.m. at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.
"We're extremely satisfied right now," North Hall coach Trevor Flow said. "We're just playing really well right now."
Bales tossed a two-hitter in a 10-2 Game 1 victory and Reece gave up just three hits in a 3-1 win in Game 2 over the Tigers at Bill Womack Field.
"Both may not have had their best stuff today but they battled every inning," Flow said. "Hudson Barrett had a huge day at third with a couple of big plays as well. I just can't say enough about how much heart these guys are showing."
But the offense came from an unusual source. After hitting just one home run in their first 34 games, the Trojans belted two big home runs, one in each game, to spark the offense.
Bradford Puryear smashed a three-run blast in the first game to cap the blow-out win while Bales added a solo shot in the second game to ignite the come-from-behind win.
"We really hit the ball well today, for sure," Flow said. "I really think our offense was the key today. We took (Ringgold) a little by surprise I think with how well we swung the bats. Things have really come together for us the last couple of weeks.
"We're excited to get another chance to win another title. But no matter who it is it's going to be a big challenge."
GAME 1: North Hall 10, Ringgold 2
The Trojans took advantage of six Ringgold errors and got a three-run home from Bradford Puryear in a four-run seventh inning en route to the win in Game 1.
Bales pitched a two-hit complete-game to get the win for the Trojans, giving up only a two-run, inside-the-park home run in the fourth.
Kenyon Ransom took the loss for the Tigers (29-6) allowing six runs on eight hits in six innings.
The Trojans wasted little time nearly batting around in the first, and once again taking advantage of every mistake. Jay Johnson and Jace Bowen both singled and Jaret Bales walked to load the bases with one out. Puryear knocked in Johnson on a Ringgold error for a 1-0 lead. Reece stroked an RBI single to center for a 2-0 lead and both courtesy-runner Ajay Jones and Puryear scored on the play after an error on the throw to push it to a quick 4-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the inning, Bales gave up a single but picked the runner off second to end the inning.
In the second, Luke Erickson singled to lead off and went to second on the play after another Ringgold error. Erickson later was gunned down to score on a bunt by Johnson, who took second on the play and then scored on an RBI single by Bowen for a 5-0 lead.
In the fourth, Helton reached on a single and took second on the play on another Tigers' misplay in the outfield. Erickson bunted him to third and he scored to make it 6-0 when Tate Brooks reached on an error.
Bales settled in early on the mound allowing just one baserunner and retiring six straight through the third inning. But he ran into trouble in the fourth. Bales walked Mason Parker to lead off and then McCain Mangum hit an inside-the-park home run to pull the Tigers within 6-2.
In the fifth, Bales walked two runners with two out but got Parker to pop out to Reece at first to end the inning. He got out of another jam in the sixth stranding two more runners.
Puryear then put the cap on the opening win with a three-run home run in the top of the seventh for a 9-2 lead. Hudson Barrett later drove in a run to make it 10-2.
GAME 2: North Hall 3, Ringgold 1
Both teams went down quickly in the first before the Tigers took a 1-0 lead on a solo home run by Colin Mountjoy to lead off the second.
North Hall answered right back when Bales cranked an opposite-field home run to right to tie the game in the bottom of the second. Brooks followed later in the inning with a two-out, bases-loaded single, scoring Helton for a 2-1 lead. But they left the bases loaded with a chance to blow it open early.
Reece worked around a two-out double and a walk in the third. He then went on to retire eight straight and 10 of 11 batters through the sixth inning with only a one-out double by Parker in the sixth.
The Trojans sealed the game in the bottom of the inning as Bales doubled and then scored on an RBI single by Reece for a 3-1 lead.
Reece finished off the complete-game effort getting the final three Ringgold batters, all of which was the potential tying run, in the seventh.
NOTES: North Hall improved to 11-1 on the road in 2021, winning its only road series of the playoffs. ... They came into the series giving up just 2.57 rpg in the playoffs. They lowered that to 2.33 rpg. They have surrendered 2 or less runs in 7 of their 9 playoff games. ... Ringgold was 12-3 at home and had won 7 straight at Bill Womack Field until Saturday. It was the first two-game losing streak for the Tigers since March 3-4.