LAWRENCEVILLE — There will be a one game, winner-take-all for the Class 3A baseball state title on Monday.
Just the way most of the so-called “experts” expected it to go.
North Hall won the opening game with a 13-1 rout in six innings while Franklin County stayed alive with a 3-1 victory in Game 2 in a doubleheader at Coolray Field on Saturday.
Game 3 will be at noon at Coolray Field.
“The first game we got some big hits really hit the ball well,” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said. “The second game their guy threw really well and we just couldn’t get much going.”
The Trojans (32-6) are expected to send Hunter Brooks (4-1, 1.96 ERA) to the hill in Game 3. He has not pitched since their second round series against Hart County.
The Lions (36-5) are expected to throw their No. 3 pitcher Miles Dodd.
Game 1 saw the Trojans dial up their biggest inning of the postseason (8 uns) and their biggest output behind a 13-hit attack. Jace Bowen had three hits and three other players had two hits apiece to back a complete-game four-hitter for Jaret Bales.
In the second game, Franklin County’s Kayne Jinks surrendered just two hits and struck out nine to even the series.
“That first game we had a lot of energy and got the big inning,” Bales said. “The second game he was throwing a lot of fastballs and we just couldn’t get much going.”
Flow said they are ready for a winner-take-all scenario..
“This is what high school baseball is all about. One game for a title and knowing anything can happen,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have another great atmosphere on Monday. What high school kid wouldn’t want to be in this situation. We’ll be ready.”
GAME 1: North Hall 13, Franklin Co. 1 (6 inn)
The Trojans used a huge eight-run fifth inning to blow open a close game en route to the win in six innings.
North Hall (32-5) also got another stellar outing from Jaret Bales on the mound. The junior scattered four hits and no runner got past first until the sixth when allowed his only run of the game in a complete-game effort.
Franklin County starter Lawson Gailey, who came in with a 12-1 record and a 0.63 ERA on the season, was roughed up by the North Hall offense. He gave up 11 hits and eight runs (seven earned) in just 4 1/3 innings. In fact, the Lions had only allowed seven runs over their previous seven playoff games before the Game 1 explosion.
Jace Bowen had three hits and two RBI and scored three runs and Bales also had two hits and three RBI to lead the attack. Bradford Puryear, Cooper Helton, and Hudson Barrett all had two hits and Barrett had three RBI as well.
In the fifth, North Hall loaded the bases twice with no outs. Gailey plunked both Luke Erickson and Tate Brooks to open the inning and Jay Johnson followed with a perfect bunt single to load the bases. Bowen followed with a two-run single and Bales executed a squeeze bunt driving in Johnson, and Bowen scored on a throwing error by the catcher to push the lead to 5-0.
Puryear added an RBI single to make it 6-0. And after the Trojans loaded the bases again, Barrett ripped a two-run single to center and Brooks added a sacrifice fly to make it 9-0.
North Hall followed the eight-run fifth with a four-run sixth.
It was the lowest run total for Franklin County since a 4-0 loss to Hart County. The loss also snapped the Lions’ 14-game win streak.
North Hall invoked the Mercy Rule on a RBI triple from Bales in the sixth. Bales later scored on a wild pitch and Cooper added another RBI triple to make it 12-0.
The Trojans offense was clutch going 6-for-12 with RISP and 8 RBI for the game.
GAME 2: Franklin County 3, North Hall 1
The Lions’ Jinks was tough right from the outset, retiring nine of the first 10 North Hall batters.
Eli Reece matched Jinks early but the Lions finally broke through in the third for their first lead of the series. Reece hit AJ Peeples and Garrett Garner followed with a single to center with one out. After getting CJ Blackwell to pop to short, he plunked Jinks to load the bases with two out. Chandler Coulter drove in a pair of runs with a single to center for a 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Jinks was in control early for the Lions fanning four Trojans the first time through the order.
The Lions appeared ready to add on in the fourth as Ryder Emmons doubled to lead off. But he was gunned down at third on a sacrifice attempt and Reece got a strikeout and a groundout to get out of the mess to stay a 2-0 deficit.
North Hall used that spark in the bottom of the inning. Tate Brooks walked to lead off and Johnson reached on a perfect bunt. Both moved up on the play on an error by Jinks and Brooks scored on a sac fly from Bowen to cut it to 2-1.
But the Lions got the run back in the fifth when Coulter tripled with two out and scored on Ginn’s RBI single to left. Herring followed with a single to right but Ginn was thrown out on a disputed play at third to end the inning with Franklin holding a 3-1 lead.
The Trojans threatened in the bottom of the fifth but Jinks struck out Erickson and Brooks with runners at first and second to get out of another jam.
Landon Davis took over for the Trojans to start the sixth as Reece went five innings allowing three runs on eight hits. It was Reece’s shortest outing of the postseason but he kept the Trojans within striking distance stranding eight runners.
Davis retired seven of the eight batters faced but North Hall could not complete the sweep as Jinks got Helton to fly out to left to send it to a Game 3.
The loss for North Hall ended its six-game postseason win streak.